A former Mid-Missouri priest has now been arrested for charges stemming from alleged sexual assaults in Booneville in the 1980’s.
A support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, held a press conference outside the Diocese of Jefferson City Thursday asking the bishop to defrock a priest that went by the name of Jerry Howard. Judy Jones with SNAP says Howard came to Mid-Missouri after getting 5 years probation for molesting a New Jersey boy in 1983.
“By August of 1983, he was back here, he had changed his name, he was in the town of Booneville at the St. Peter Paul Church, and he was molesting again,” Jones said.
Howard was known as Carmine Sita in New Jersey. He was an associate priest in Booneville for 15 months in 1983-84, before he was relieved of his duties. It’s believed he worked at the now-defunct Charter Hospital in Columbia for an unknown period of time after that. The diocese made no comment about the possible defrocking of Howard, but Ronald Vessell did say the diocese is cooperating with authorities. Vessell says he does agree with SNAP on one thing.
“The victims who have come forward are courageous and I hope that if anyone else has been abused, they will do the same,” Vessell said.
Howard will be prosecuted in Cooper County, and it’s not clear when he’ll be expedited to Missouri from New Jersey.
Jones read a statement from Mark McAllister, one of the men alleging the crimes against Jerry Howard.
“I applaud the courageousness of victims who offered their testimony alongside me. I encourage any other victims to break their silence and their suffering.
McAllister settled his lawsuit with the Diocese of Jefferson City for $600,000 in 2009.