Friday, July 9, 2010

Priest turns himself in on charges he molested boy 33 years ago

Friday, July 9, 2010 Winston-Salem 72.0º Fair News
Priest turns himself in on charges he molested boy 33 years ago
By Michael Hewlett | Journal Reporter

Published: July 8, 2010

A chaplain with Bishop McGuiness High School turned himself in today on charges that he sexually abused a 14-year-old boy more than three decades ago at a Catholic church in Albemarle.

Father Joseph Kelleher, 82, of 1525 Wood St. is charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child. He was released on a $5,000 bond and his first court date is scheduled for Aug. 9, according to Albemarle Police Chief Ronnie Michael.

Kelleher is on administrative leave from Bishop McGuiness.

The allegations surfaced in September when the victim accused Kelleher in an Internet chat room for clergy-abuse victims of molesting him when he was 14 at a church in Albemarle.

The victim contacted police, which started investigating the allegations. Separately, someone sent an anonymous e-mail to the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte directing officials to the Internet chat room.

The diocese contacted the Stanly County Department of Social Services, as is the church's policy in suspected child abuse cases, and started an internal investigation.

Diocese officials placed Kelleher on administrative leave.

Michael said the allegation is that the abuse took place in 1977 at Our Lady of Annunciation, where Kelleher served as pastor from 1973 to 1977. Kelleher also had served congregations in High Point, Asheboro and Lexington. He was chaplain at Bishop McGuiness two previous times, once in 1970 and another from 1993 to 1998. After his retirement in 1999, he went back to serving as chaplain at Bishop McGuiness.

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