Former Boonville priest fights sexual abuse charges

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 | 10:41 p.m. CDT

BOONVILLE — A former priest accused of sexually assaulting young boys in the 1980s was in Cooper County Circuit Court on Wednesday for a hearing to decide if the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had run out.

Gerald Howard is charged with three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and one count of kidnapping for incidents that were alleged to have occurred between 1983 and 1988. One charge of kidnapping was dropped because it was established that the alleged crime took place outside of Cooper County jurisdiction.

Howard was the priest at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville in 1983 and 1984. He was formerly a priest in New Jersey where he was charged with sexual contact with a minor in 1982 and pleaded guilty.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said earlier that Howard was placed briefly in a rehabilitation facility by church officials before he returned to the priesthood in Boonville in the fall of 1983.

On July 16, Howard's defense filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, based on an argument that the statute of limitations on the crimes had lapsed.

The motion read in part: "These prosecutions should be barred by the statute of limitations as Defendant's ability to investigate and mount a defense has been severely damaged by the delay in prosecution, a delay of over 20 years without a reasonable explanation."

The prosecution argued there was an exception to the statute of limitations in the case because Howard allegedly used intimidation to hide his crimes and had been residing in another state.  

On Wednesday, Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Doug Abele called three of the alleged victims to testify.

The witnesses — signified in court as "John Doe 1," "John Doe 2" and "John Doe 3" to protect their identities — described their abuse and offered the date they think the crimes occurred.

Mark McAllister, who shared his identity with the Missourian as "John Doe 1," took the stand and alleged years of sexual abuse at the hands of Howard.

McAllister, 42, testified that he was 13 when he started being abused by Howard.

During McAllister's testimony, muffled sobbing could be heard in what was an otherwise silent courtroom.   

Howard is being held on $1.5 million bond.

Cooper County Circuit Judge Robert Koffman is expected to rule on the motion at the end of November.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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Judy Jones November 1, 2012 | 11:44 a.m.

If this dangerous child predator is released from jail because of a technicality, the child predator friendly laws in Missouri need to be changed.

Child predators are very cunning and manipulative. They know every trick on how to groom, threaten, lie, and put the fear of god into their victims and sometimes even their family members.

They also appear to do a lot of goods things, they can be very charismatic and you may think they would never harm a child. They have to be this way, in order to not get caught and to continue to abuse

Sexual predators are often powerful and well-loved. It would be comforting if those who preyed on the vulnerable were obvious social misfits whose appearance would somehow set off alarm bells and give us the willies or the creeps. They rarely do. Usually, predators are among the last people we would suspect of sexually violating others. At a party, the predator isn't some oddball sitting alone in a corner because others feel uncomfortable with him. Most often, the predator is the guy throwing the party.

We must overcome the dangerous myth that because someone is successful or warm or caring, he or she couldn't have done that!
Also, we must stop thinking that because a man is old, that somehow hes automatically safe. It's just irresponsible to endanger kids by assuming an adult is harmless simply because he or she may be losing hair, wearing glasses, using hearing aids or walking with a cane. These can be signs of advancing age, but they are not signs that an individual is safe around kids.

It is extremely rare that a child predator has only one victim. Hopefully anyone who suspects or may have been harmed by Howard/Sita, will have the courage to come forward and contact the police.
Also keep in mind your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy.

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