Boone County authorities investigating former Boonville priest

Thursday, November 15, 2012 | 6:20 p.m. CST; updated 6:35 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 15, 2012

COLUMBIA — Boone County law enforcement agencies are investigating a former priest already accused of sexual molestation and kidnapping in Cooper County.

Gerald Howard was a priest at the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville in 1983 and 1984. He has been accused of using his position at the church to find and target some of his alleged victims.

Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Gonzalez confirmed Thursday that Howard was being investigated in Boone County. Gonzalez said she could not comment further because the investigation was ongoing.

According to a Nov. 15 press release from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, the Boone County investigation was a result of time Howard spent working at the defunct Charter Hospital in Columbia.

In the release, SNAP leader Judy Jones urged anyone who might have more information to cooperate with investigators.

Howard was formerly a priest in New Jersey, where he was charged with sexual contact with a minor in 1982 and pleaded guilty. He was given five years probation and kept his position in the priesthood. He then began working at Saints Peter and Paul in 1983.

Howard was being held by authorities in Cooper County on $1.5 million bond. He faces three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and one count of kidnapping for incidents that are alleged to have happened in the mid-1980s. 

Cooper County Circuit Judge Robert Koffman is soon expected to rule on a motion filed by Howard’s defense team that argues the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had lapsed. If Koffman rules that the statute of limitations prohibits prosecution, Howard would be released from jail in Cooper County. Koffman could also rule against the motion, paving way for Howard to go on trial in early 2013. 

During a hearing on Oct. 31, three of Howard's alleged victims testified that he sexually abused them and offered approximate dates and locations of the alleged crimes. The witnesses' identities were withheld during the hearing.

One of the victims, Mark McAllister, 42, who previously revealed his identity to the Missourian, alleged that he was sexually abused by Howard from age 13 to 18.

McAllister won a $600,000 civil settlement in 2009 with the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Servants of the Paraclete, an organization that helps Catholic men overcome personal problems, according to previous Missourian reporting.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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