Sex Abuse Suspect's Road to St. Louis; Australian's 1st Stop Was Rehab Center

By Michael D. Sorkin
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 20, 1995

After Gregory J. Sutton was accused of sexually abusing four boys and girls at the Australian Catholic school where he taught, his superiors ordered him to leave the country for counseling.

Six years later, he was hired as principal of a Catholic school in St. Louis County.

Today, Sutton, 44, is under arrest, waiting for a federal judge to decide whether to send him back to stand trial in Australia.

Sutton was a member of the Marist Brothers, a religious teaching order in Australia, where Sutton taught in Lismore. In 1987, his superiors sent him to "a world-renowned rehab facility in Canada," said Brother Michael Hill, leader of the Marists.

Hill described the facility as a private treatment center for people with emotional disturbances. He didn't identify it.

Sources here identified the facility as Southdown, a treatment center that offers counseling. Sutton checked himself into the center in Toronto in November 1989 and stayed until June 1990, sources said.

Sutton met his wife to be, Barbara - a former nun - at the center, the sources said. She and Sutton married in October 1992.

Dennis Collins, a Southdown spokesman, said Friday that rules of ethics governing psychologists prohibit him from confirming whether Sutton had been a patient. He said the center offers psychological counseling. The patients, he said, included people with different religious affiliations.

After treatment, Sutton returned to Australia to decide his future. His order told him he would never again teach children, Hill told the Northern Star, an Australian newspaper near Lismore.

After that, Sutton resigned from the Marist order and traveled to the United States. He lived for a while in Chicago, earning a master's degree in 1992 at Loyola University.

Hired In Florissant

Two years ago, St. Dismas, a Catholic grade school in Florissant, hired him as school principal.

The church pastor wouldn't say whether any check had been made of Sutton's Australian references.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis said Sutton had answered "no" to questions on his job application asking whether he had ever been accused of any felonies, including child abuse. Hill said the Marists never provided any references for Sutton in the United States.

"Under no circumstances would he have been furnished with references to teach," said Hill, the provincial, or head of his order. The Marists lost all contact with Sutton after he resigned, Hill said.

The Marist order was founded in France in 1817 to provide Christian education to rural children. In 1872, three Marist brothers opened a school in a wooden building in Lismore, in New South Wales, Australia.

Town's Biggest Scandal

Lismore, a community with a population of around 40,000, is about 20 miles inland from Australia's eastern coast, near Byron Bay, a popular spot for backpacking and whale watching.

It's a community in transition.

When Sutton lived there during the 1980s, the population was smaller, more deeply religious, conservative and rural. Sutton lived in a private flat in the shadow of St. Carthages Cathedral.

Today Lismore is a bit less conservative, with 10,000 new people - 'hippies" to some of the old-timers.

A local newspaper editor describes the Sutton case as the biggest scandal to hit the community in recent memory.

Sutton taught at Carthages Primary School. He is charged with sexually abusing four of his students: two boys and two girls, ages 10 to 12. The charges say that Sutton sexually abused the children in classrooms, in his car, at a Marist Brothers residence, at a swimming pool and at the home of one victim.

The allegations surfaced in the late 1980s, but few people in Lismore were aware of them. By law, Australian media cannot report criminal allegations until a case gets to court. Arrest warrants weren't issued for Sutton until 1992, after he had left Australia.

GRAPHIC: MAP; Map by AP of Australia showing location of Lismore, New South Wales.

Tim Bryant of the Post-Dispatch staff contributed information for this story.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.