We devote considerable time and energy to exposing child-molesting clerics in this space. However, there’s a kind of criminal who arguably does even more harm than a sexual predator. A murderer. This week, a Buffalo newspaper reported that Fr. John D. Lewandowski was sent to a church mansion (where several abusive priests lived), where homicide detectives questioned and fingerprinted him as a suspect in the murder of a fellow priest. Fr. Lewandowski now faces at least four civil child sex abuse lawsuits. That got us thinking about other murders that are associated with predator priests. There are a surprising number of such cases.
- In 2022, Fr. Ryan Erickson was listed on a Michigan Diocese’s ‘credibly accused’ list. A special hearing in 2005 found there was ‘probable cause’ to rule he likely murdered Dan O’Connell and James Ellison. (Fr. Erickson admitted the killings to a church deacon.) The priest was also accused of abusing at least one young boy and possessing child porn.
- In 2021, hours before he was arrested, Fr. Richard Lavigne of Massachusetts implicated himself in the murder of an altar boy Danny Croteau. Law enforcement officials estimated that Lavigne molested more than 250 victims
- In 2020, Fr. Anthony Cipolle of Maine was ousted by his bishop after he “inflamed” events leading up to a 49-year-old Hampden woman’s murder.
- In 2019, former New Jersey predator priest John Capparelli’s body was found shot in the neck in his house in the Nevada desert.
- In 2018, a national news outlet reported on the death of young Gilbert Bonneau at a New York orphanage, reportedly after having been beaten savagely by a nun. Others have said publicly that they were sexually abused at the facility.
- In 2017, Fr. John B. Feit was convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a young Texas beauty queen Irene Garza.
- In 2014, Fr. Gerald J. Robinson of Toledo passed away in prison for the murder of Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl. He was also accused of sexually abusing at least one girl.
- In 2007, Brother Patrick Harris of Iowa committed suicide. Years before, he murdered his three-year-old daughter.
- In 2003, Fr. Bernard Kelly was suspended by a Massachusetts diocese after prosecutors questioned him about his contact with an accused murderer who was also a convicted child rapist. Law enforcement officers reportedly believed Kelly had a sexual relationship with the molester.
- In 2007, after more than a week on the run from law enforcement, Fr. George Chaanine of Las Vegas was arrested. Among other crimes, he was charged with attempted murder and sexual assault and eventually pled guilty to assault.
We at Horowitz Law believe that violent crimes by abusive clergy happen more often than many realize. What about violence committed by abuse victims against their perpetrators? It is stunningly rare. We at Horowitz Law can think of only two cases, one in Maryland and one in California. Tragically, child sex abuse victims most often turn their pain inward and hurt themselves (or sometimes their loved ones) but not their childhood attackers. So, when you share suspicions or information about possible child molesters, you may be helping prevent a crime even more severe than sexual abuse.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or email sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected]. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.