Ex-friar found guilty of sexual abuse of former student at Catholic school

Greenwood Commonwealth, Mississippi/April 13, 2022

By Kevin Edwards

A former Franciscan friar has been found guilty  of sexually abusing a grade-school student during the 1990s at a Greenwood Catholic school.

A Leflore County jury deliberated less than an hour Wednesday before finding Paul West guilty of one count of sexual battery and one count of gratification of lust.

West, 62, was sentenced by Circuit Judge Ashley Hines to 30 years on the first count and 15 years on the second, to be served consecutively.

Gaunt and relying on a walker, West made no comment when escorted by deputies from the Leflore County Civic Center, where the two-day trial was held.

La Jarvis Love, now 39, had accused West of numerous instances of sexual abuse while Love was a student at St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School.

Love, who cried when the verdict was read, said afterward, “I want to thank the state. I want to thank everybody that represented us. I just want to thank God, the provider, the creator. He restored my faith today. I really appreciate him, and I believe again.”

Love and his cousin, Joshua Love, testified Tuesday that they had suffered repeated abuse by  West starting in the fourth grade.

They testified that the abuse occurred both at the school and on trips to New York and Wisconsin.

“I’m happy. I’m thankful,” said Joshua Love following the verdict. “Justice is served.”

Mark Belenchia, a survivor of Catholic clergy abuse and the Mississippi coordinator for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was present for Wednesday’s verdict.

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