Priest Molested Him in 1983, Man Says

By Natashia Gregoire
Tampa Tribune
September 3, 2003

Church States Cleric Elsewhere at the Time

Clearwater - A Tampa priest who transferred to the diocese nearly 20 years ago after serving a parish in Buffalo, N.Y., has been accused of sexually abusing an altar boy two decades ago.

In a lawsuit filed Friday, the plaintiffs, a husband and wife identified only as John and Jane Doe, allege the Rev. Timothy Kelley performed oral sex on John Doe when the then-13-year-old accompanied the priest on a trip from Buffalo to Florida in the summer of 1983.

In a statement read to parishioners Sunday at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Tampa, Kelley, 56, denied the allegations.

"This false allegation obviously hurts me; however, I know the truth and am confident that those investigating will quickly find that I have done nothing wrong," Kelley wrote.

Kelley has voluntarily removed himself from duties at St. Timothy's pending the diocese's preliminary investigation, which is "utilizing an outside investigator to help find the truth," according to a statement from the diocese.

The lawsuit names the Diocese of St. Petersburg, the Diocese of Buffalo and Kelley as defendants.

It claims John Doe and Kelley "developed a close relationship ... like that of father and son," while John Doe was a student at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School near Buffalo, where Kelley was a priest.

In his statement, Kelley refers to his accuser as "a friend of mine."

Dates released in a statement by the diocese differ from key dates mentioned in the Does' complaint.

The lawsuit states Kelley was transferred to the St. Petersburg diocese in 1982. It says Kelley returned to New York in August 1983 and drove John Doe and his brother to Florida for a weeklong vacation.

The molestation took place the morning of the last day of the trip, the lawsuit states.

Church spokeswoman Mary Jo Murphy said Kelley was not assigned to the local diocese until Nov. 1, 1983, three months after the alleged incident.

And Murphy said Kelly took a leave of absence from the priesthood from 1986 until 2002, when he returned to Tampa.

According to the lawsuit, John Doe had "developed amnesia and completely lost or suppressed the memory of the abuse" until September 1999.

Once the preliminary investigation is complete, the results will be turned over to a review board for a recommendation, according to a statement released by the diocese.


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