Members of a group supporting the sexually abused victims of priests want people to call police, not church officials.
Members of a group called â??SNAPâ??, or the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests have started a new letter campaign in search of more victims.
Earlier this month, Boone County prosecutors disclosed that they are investigating a catholic priest and former local counselor who molested children, but may soon walk out of jail.
His name is Father Jerry Howard. For more than two years, Howard has been in the Cooper County Jail facing charges of molesting three boys at Boonvilleâ??s Saints Peter and Paul Church. Within weeks, a judge will decide whether the statute of limitations on Howardâ??s alleged crimes has expired. If so he will be released. The victims said the abuse happened between 1984 and 1987. SNAP members held signs outside the Columbia Police Department on Monday afternoon looking for more recent victims that would not fall under the statute of limitations.
SNAP National Director David Clohessy said, â??Father Howard worked and lived in Columbia as a counselor at Charter Hospital. We suspect there may be victims of his here in the Columbia area. If so, we want to stress over and over again, report child sex crimes to the police and prosecutors, not to church officials.â??
Before coming to Missouri, Howard changed his name from Carmine Sita after a 1982 conviction of sexual abuse in New Jersey. SNAP officials wrote letters to Catholic Bishop John Gaydos and nine local Catholic pastors in hopes of finding more alleged victims of Howard.
Attorney Bryan Bacon said, â??The way the Missouri law is written, itâ??s much easier for the prosecutor to put off the statute of limitations argument if the victim is younger than the victims in Cooper County.â??
Howard is accused of molesting children in Cooper County. Howard also spent time in Boone and Callaway counties. If you saw, suspected or suffered any misdeeds by him, SNAP members urge you to call your local police department.
If a judge rules against Howard his trial will be set sometime after the first of the year.