Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Priest charged

Catholic priest from Erie diocese charged in Bradford
By TIM HAHN, Erie Times-News
BRADFORD -- A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Erie has been relieved of his duties and placed on administrative leave in the wake of charges that he had an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

The Rev. Samuel B. Slocum, 59, has been relieved of his duties at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bradford and Our Mother of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Lewis Run. Both churches are in McKean County.

Slocum faces six criminal charges, including felony counts of interference with the custody of children and concealment of the whereabouts of a child, for incidents that state police said happened in Lewis Run, south of Bradford, between Jan. 1 and March 29.

The charges were filed on Friday. Slocum had not appeared in court to face them as of Monday, according to court records.

"It is an ongoing investigation," Trooper Bruce Morris, spokesman for state police Troop C in Punxsutawney, said Monday. "There might be more charges coming from this. Then again, there may not be."

Bishop Donald W. Trautman said in a statement issued Monday afternoon that he immediately placed Slocum on a leave of absence and revoked his diocesan faculties.

Slocum is not permitted to exercise any ministry in the church, Trautman said.

"While the charges filed against him at this point are most serious, it is my understanding there is no criminal allegation of inappropriate sexual activity. Nevertheless, I view the conduct described in the criminal complaint as devastating, if true," Trautman said in the release.

Slocum is a former Cathedral Preparatory School teacher and weekend assistant at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Erie.

He is a native of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church, Smethport, and was ordained May 16, 1980. He studied for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, N.Y.

The allegations against Slocum were reported to state police on March 29, when Trooper Daniel Woods spoke to the boy's mother at the McKean County Office of Children and Youth.

Woods accused Slocum of allowing the 15-year-old boy to visit his residence after the boy's mother had forbidden it, and of lying to the mother when she asked if her son had gone to his residence.

Woods said the boy's mother sent Slocum a letter informing him of the prohibition on Jan. 18, eight days after the boy had skipped school and spent the day at Slocum's residence.

The boy's mother spoke to Slocum on Feb. 24 and asked him to have no further contact with her son because the boy had recently gone to Slocum's residence after school without permission, according to the affidavit of probable cause that police filed with the charges.

Slocum denied the visit, but the boy admitted to it, according to the affidavit.

The boy's mother also told Slocum during that conversation that she would contact the diocese if Slocum continued to have contact with her son, Woods said.

The boy's mother gave Woods iPhones, an iPod and an Apple laptop computer that she said Slocum had given her son to use in communicating with him via Facebook, e-mail and text messages, according to the affidavit.

Woods said the woman also provided him with printed excerpts from her son's Facebook account of conversations between her son and Slocum.

In one of the conversations, Slocum allegedly told the boy that he didn't think he should let his mother know that he had Slocum's laptop. In another, Slocum allegedly asks the boy how his mother found out that the boy was at Slocum's house, and he tells the boy that "we will have to be more careful in the future," according to the affidavit. In another series of conversations attributed to Slocum that are listed in the affidavit, Slocum talks of sneaking over to the boy's house to leave something for him.

Woods interviewed the 15-year-old boy later on the afternoon of March 29. The boy told Woods that he had been alone with Slocum at Slocum's residence on more than one occasion, and that Slocum had given him several gifts, according to the affidavit.

State police served a search warrant on Slocum's Lewis Run residence on the evening of March 29 and said they seized several computers, a cell phone and a digital camera. They also spoke to Slocum, who admitted to using his computers and his cell phone to chat with the 15-year-old boy and other juveniles through Facebook and e-mail, according to the affidavit.

Police said Slocum also admitted to having contact with the 15-year-old boy after he was forbidden to do so, and to leaving a present on the boy's porch when he knew he wasn't supposed to contact the boy.

Slocum additionally told police that he had taken digital photographs of the boy and of other juveniles, and he stated numerous times that his relationship with the boy and the other juveniles was inappropriate, according to the affidavit.

Police said they served a search warrant on another of Slocum's residences in McKean County on March 30 and seized two Apple computers. They also interviewed three other boys on Wednesday, and were told that Slocum gave the 15-year-old boy several expensive gifts for no reason, according to the affidavit.

The Catholic Diocese of Erie has assigned the Rev. Walter Packard to take over at the two churches where Slocum had served as pastor, the Bradford Era reported. Packard most recently was assigned to Holy Cross Catholic Church in Fairview Township.

Trautman said Monday that his prayers go out to the parishioners of the two churches, and to all who have been hurt in any way by the matter.

"If the allegations are shown to be true, I am doubly saddened not only by the pain of victims but also by the betrayal of confidence and trust on the part of a priest," Trautman said.

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