Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second person alleges sexual abuse by priest

Second person alleges sexual abuse by priest
Accuser says incident took place in 1981 while Kelleher served in Charlotte


Published: July 22, 2010

The Rev. Joseph Kelleher, charged earlier this month with child abuse in Albemarle in 1977, has been accused of a second incident involving a minor 29 years ago at a Catholic church in Charlotte.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are investigating the new allegation against Kelleher, which was made July 14, a spokesman for the police department, Rob Tufano, told The Charlotte Observer yesterday.

Kelleher, 82, has not been arrested in that case. Investigators interviewed Kelleher at his home in Winston-Salem.

"They did not glean enough from the interview to proceed with charges," Tufano said.

A police report said that the alleged incident involved the fondling of a 13-year-old boy on Jan. 15, 1981.

The accuser said that the alleged incident took place in the church rectory, or priests' residence, the Observer reported.

Kelleher was assigned to Our Lady of the Assumption Church in east Charlotte from August 1977 to July 1986.

Kelleher, born in Ireland, has served in the dioceses of Charlotte and Raleigh since 1966. He was arrested by Albemarle police July 8 and charged with one count of taking indecent liberties with a child.

Kelleher was released from custody on a $5,000 bond. In that case, he is accused of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old boy in 1977 at Our Lady of the Annunciation Catholic Church, where Kelleher was then assigned.

Kelleher, reached by phone last night by a Winston-Salem Journal reporter, declined comment.

Vigils of support for Kelleher were held last week in Winston Salem and Charlotte by Catholics who said that they know the priest and do not believe that he is guilty of the alleged Albemarle incident.

Seth Langson, a Charlotte lawyer representing the 14-year-old boy, declined to comment about the second allegation against Kelleher.

"If there are any other victims, I encourage them to come forward," Langson said. "However, I don't know if there are any other victims."

Kelleher is officially retired, but had been serving in recent years as chaplain at Bishop McGuinness High School in Kernersville.

The Diocese of Charlotte put him on administrative leave this month.

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