Former priest pleads guilty in Mo. sex abuse case

BOONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A former Catholic priest who was sent to Boonville, Missouri even though he had pleaded guilty to abusing a boy in New Jersey was sentenced to two concurrent 12-year sentences for molesting three teenage boys in Missouri after the transfer.

Gerald J. Howard, 69, admitted Tuesday that he forced two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old boy into sex acts between May 1984 and September 1987 in Boonville. He also admitted that he gave his victims drugs and alcohol, The Columbia Daily Tribune reported ( ).

 Howard was assigned as associate pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville after completing a sexual abuse treatment program for abuse of another boy in Jersey City, N.J, in 1982.

A plea deal in the Missouri case allowed Howard to plead guilty to two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sodomy, while four other felony charges were dismissed.

Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele said Howard befriended the two 14-year-old boys while he was assigned to Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville. Howard met the third boy after he left the parish. The first two victims were abused in his car, apartment or in the parish’s rectory, while the third boy was abused at Howard’s apartment, Abele said.

All three of the boys were afraid to disobey a priest and Howard threatened them with physical harm if they told anyone, he said.

Abele gave Cooper County Circuit Judge Robert Koffman four letters from the three victims, who were not identified in court.

“There’s some things that jump off the page to me,” Koffman said. “All of these victims were children and have had their lives turned around.”