Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

I-Team: Local priest under investigation by state police

I-Team: Priest under investigation
I-Team: Priest under investigation
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

The NBC 10 I-Team has confirmed a local Roman Catholic priest is under investigation by Rhode Island State Police for sexual abuse. The priest is no longer serving in a church, but is still living.

The new development follows an I-Team investigation that's now stretched more than a year.

"We're trying to determine whether it rises to the level of criminality, and fits into the statute," said state police Capt. Christopher Dicomitis.

He said state police are not releasing the priest's name because he has not been charged with a crime and that the investigation is ongoing. But he said criminal charges are possible.

The I-Team also learned that about 15 people have come forward to report sexual abuse by priests to state police since the NBC 10 first aired stories about the I-Team's investigation in November.

State police said the people who filed reports in 2014 had not reported the abuse to law enforcement in the past, although some had reported their experience to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence.

In a six-month investigation last year, the I-Team uncovered 45 letters sent to state police by the diocese between 2003 and 2013. The 88 pages were heavily redacted, but revealed disturbing details of abuse going back more than 30 years.

Ann Hagan Webb is one of several people who told the I-Team they reported sexual abuse to the church, but their cases weren't reported to state police. She said she gave a statement to the Diocese of Providence in 1994, but didn't find a letter describing her case among those uncovered by NBC 10.

Hagan Webb went to state police on her own earlier this year to file a report, even though the priest in her case died years ago.

"I found them very sensitive and understanding and encouraging," Hagan Webb said of the detectives who interviewed her.

Now, she's urging others to speak with state police as well, even if they've reported sexual abuse to the church in the past. She's reaching out to Rhode Islanders who may have experienced clergy sexual abuse through NBC 10 and by posting a letter in local newspapers.

"I'm encouraging more survivors to come forward and give their statement to the state police," Hagan Webb said. "I remember feeling much lighter as I walked out the door."

State police told the NBC 10 I-Team that the majority of the priests accused in the cases are dead. In other cases, the statute of limitations has expired, so priests can't be prosecuted even if they're still living.

But investigators still want anyone who experienced clergy sexual abuse to file a police report.

"Our concern is their welfare," Dicomitis said. "Put it on file ... so we have it in an active database, even though the statute of limitations might have elapsed."

NBC 10 asked the Diocese of Providence for an interview with Bishop Thomas Tobin on Friday, but received a written statement instead.

The statement said in part, "The Diocese of Providence is not aware of any new allegations of sexual abuse; the issues being investigated are old allegations and have already been widely reported."

The statement did not address the state police investigation involving the living priest.

Loading ...