Ex-city priest faces more sex abuse charges

Police: Paquin abused boys in Maine

The Haverhill Gazette, Massachusetts/February 1, 2017

By Mike LaBella

A former Haverhill priest who served time in prison after pleading guilty to sexual abuse of a child is facing new charges in Maine.

Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford said that on Monday of last week, a York County grand jury indicted former Haverhill priest Ronald Paquin, 74, of Massachusetts on 13 counts of gross sexual misconduct, class A, and 16 counts of gross sexual misconduct, class B.

Sanford said the criminal acts took place in the late 1980s at seasonal locations in Kennebunkport. The victims, both males, were 11 and 14 when Paquin began his inappropriate criminal conduct, police said.

“I am glad that we were able to present a case that hopefully brings the victims some type of peace in their future and holds the offender accountable for these horrific crimes,” Sanford said.

He said that with the help of two courageous victims and the hard work of lead police investigator Detective David Breault and York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery, the Kennebunkport Police Department presented evidence to the grand jury of York County that resulted in the indictment.

Sanford said a warrant will be issued for Paquin’s arrest, after which he will be returned to Maine for eventual court proceedings.

Sanford said that because of the severity of the charges and the ages of the victims, Maine’s statute of limitations allows for such cases to move forward at any time.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, said he was not at liberty to comment because the case in Maine is pending.

Although Paquin is a convicted sex offender, these are new allegations. Paquin’s whereabouts was not immediately known, so he could not be reached for comment.

A history of assault

After pleading guilty in 2003 to raping and molesting an altar boy in Haverhill as many as 50 times from 1989 to 1992, Paquin was sentenced to 12 to 15 years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction in Walpole.

Paquin was released from prison in October of 2015.

One of the earliest clergy jailed in the sexual abuse scandal of the Boston Archdiocese, Paquin acknowledged the seduction and sexual abuse of teen boys spanning four decades, including while he served at St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill from 1981 to 1990, and Methuen’s St. Monica’s from 1974 to 1980.

Although suspected of targeting victims for decades, by the time of his arrest in Malden in May 2002, only one case in which Paquin was accused of sexual molestation fell within the state’s statute of limitations. At the time, the statue of limitations allowed for prosecution 15 years after the victim’s 16th birthday.

That victim, the former St. John the Baptist altar boy who was then in his 20s and married to a woman he wedded in a ceremony officiated by Paquin, said Paquin tricked him into a three-year sexual relationship by suggesting their acts together were part of a study Paquin was conducting into the sexuality of young boys.

Prosecutors accused Paquin of orally raping the altar boy in Haverhill and New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and Virginia. They credited the strength of his testimony for Paquin’s decision to plead guilty.

Paquin was “laicized,” or dismissed, as a member of the clergy by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston in 2004.

Paquin also was named in 24 civil lawsuits alleging he sexually abused other children while serving at churches in Methuen and Haverhill during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. One of those cases was a wrongful death suit filed by a Haverhill couple whose teenage son was killed in a car accident with Paquin at the wheel.

Victim speaks up

Keith Townsend, 42, of Seabrook, New Hampshire, said he was sexually abused by Paquin while serving as an altar boy at St. John the Baptist. Townsend, who helped with the Maine investigation, called the indictment a “big win” for all of Paquin’s victims.

“Although he was convicted of abusing one boy, he admitted to having abused 14 others,” Townsend said.

The Gazette does not name victims of sexual assaults unless they come forward on their own, as Townsend did.

Townsend said that in 2011 he participated in a taped interview with Maine authorities where he talked about being abused by Paquin at a seasonal campground in Kennebunkport, where he said Paquin kept a camping trailer. He said the abuse started at age 8 and continued until age 12.

“On the way to Maine we’d stop at the state liquor store and he’d buy us wine coolers, beer and other things,” Townsend said. “We’d binge drink at his camp, but he’d never drink. He give us the keys to the parish’s SUV and I’d drive it around Biddeford and Kennebunkport with my friends while he was back at the camp with someone who was left behind. Then he would tell someone else to take the vehicle and someone else would stay behind.”

He said Paquin gave them presents.

“Then there were the gifts he gave us,” he said. “Whatever we wanted, we got.”

Townsend said he contacted Maine authorities again in 2015, prior to Paquin’s release from prison.

“I told them I was ready to testify against Paquin if I had to,” he said. “If I have to get up there to protect other people I will, as this is not about me any more. It’s about other victims getting the help they deserve.”

Townsend said the abuse he suffered by Paquin led to a host of troubles, including drinking throughout his teenage years and into adulthood, as well as drugs.

“All attempts to have normal relationships with women were shattered,” he said. “And my drinking led to assault and battery charges and drinking and driving arrests.”

He said he is proud to be sober for three years now.

“Since coming to terms with this, I’ve been attending counseling that is paid for by the Archdiocese’s Office of Pastoral Support,” he said. “I have a full-time job, I’m married with two children and I’m getting my license back next month.”

“It’s like I’m just waking up after 39 years of being completely in a mental fog. I want other victims to come forward. That’s my purpose for talking about this,” Townsend said.

“I’m far enough along in my recovery to take the witness stand,” he added.

Victim's sister responds

Kelly Townsend, 48, of Haverhill said her brother Keith wants Paquin off the streets and is looking for justice for those who Paquin abused.

“When your parents think you’re going off with a priest, they think you’re going to do some work at the camp, maybe some construction, and that you’re staying out of trouble,” she said about altar boys such as her brother, who did various chores at St. John the Baptist every day.

“He (Paquin) would take boys from Haverhill with him to his camp on the weekend,” she said. “We lived next door to the church and we had a lot of interaction with Paquin. He was then, and still is, a monster.”

She recalls a time when as a young girl in the parish, Paquin observed her and some of her girlfriends talking with some of the boys.

“He told us to stay away from the boys or else we would go to hell,” she said.

“We were brought up to think that priests are important, like God’s representative here,” she said. “Aside from the fact he (Paquin) abused so many boys, he took their faith away from them.”

She went so far as to say Paquin “destroyed our whole neighborhood.”

“He needs to be back in jail,” she said. “I hope other victims will come forward and be heard.”

Attorney responds

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents or has represented a dozen Paquin sexual abuse victims, reacted to the news of Paquin’s indictment in Maine.

“Sexual abuse victims are relieved that Father Paquin may be taken off the streets by being incarcerated so that he will be unable to continue to sexually abuse children,” Garabedian said.

Garabedian said he represented victims who were sexually abused from approximately 1969 to 1985 and were ages 10 to 16 at the time.

“All victims were male and some victims were repeatedly sexually abused over years by Father Paquin,” Garabedian said, noting that at the time of the sexual abuse, Paquin was assigned to either St. Monica’s Church in Methuen or St. John the Baptist in Haverhill.

“Once again, victims wonder why the supervisors were negligent and why they didn’t properly supervise Father Paquin,” Garabedian said. “If the supervisors properly did their jobs, dozens of Paquin victims would have not been sexually abused.”

Garabedian said that one of his clients, a man who is currently residing outside of the United States and who wishes to remain anonymous, was happy to learn about Paquin’s indictment and hopes Paquin will spend additional time in jail.

“It’s hard for me to believe he was released in the first place, considering the long record of crimes he committed,” the man told The Eagle-Tribune. “I can only hope that they will keep him in jail for the rest of his life. He is clearly a threat.”

The man said he was abused by Paquin at St. John the Baptist in Haverhill during the early 1980s, when he was a teenager.

“Where was the supervision, where was the oversight?” he asked.

District attorney wanted Paquin held

In March of 2015, just months prior to his release, lawyers for the Essex County District Attorney’s office filed a motion to label Paquin as a sexually dangerous person, a move that could have kept the convicted pedophile priest in jail beyond his planned release.

Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said the motion would have caused Paquin to be held until a hearing. If a judge found probable cause for naming (Paquin) a sexually dangerous person, a trial would have followed.

A probable cause hearing was held over the course of two days in early August of 2015, at which Essex Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kirshenbaum presented testimony from Dr. Gregg Belle, a forensic psychologist specializing in sex offenders.

Judge James Lang found probable cause Aug. 20 of that year. Paquin was then evaluated by two qualified examiners.

The Essex District Attorney’s Office subsequently withdrew its petition to hold Paquin as a sexually dangerous person after neither of the experts who examined Paquin found him “sexually dangerous.”

“Our contention is that Mr. Paquin poses a danger to the community,” Blodgett said at the time. “Unfortunately, we have no further legal options available to hold Mr. Paquin.”

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