Boone County prosecutors revealed yesterday that they are investigating a once-convicted predator priest who may soon walk free from a Cooper County jail but is accused of molesting kids in the Columbia area too.
He is Fr. Jerry Howard of the Jefferson City diocese. A judge is expected to rule soon on whether Howard will be tried on charges of abusing three Boonville area boys or whether he’ll be released from jail. His lawyers claim the statute of limitations on the charges may have expired.
The prosecutors’ disclosure came as leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests held sidewalk news conferences yesterday in Fulton and Jefferson City. At those events, SNAP disclosed, for the first time, that Howard had also worked in Callaway County.
They urged Callaway County law enforcement officials and Howard’s former supervisors and colleagues at the Jefferson City Catholic diocese to help find other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.
Those who worked with Howard at the now-shuttered Charter Hospital in Columbia hospital should also “do any outreach they can,” said SNAP leader Judy Jones.
“This is a shrewd, violent, dangerous man who will almost certainly flee the area and hurt more kids unless he’s kept behind bars,” Jones said. “Every institution that gave him access to kids has a moral and civic duty to lend a hand to law enforcement agencies now.”
SNAP praised Cooper County prosecutors for bringing charges and Boone County prosecutors for investigating Howard.
“It would have been easy for Cooper County authorities to throw up their hands and say ‘This all just happened too long ago,’” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “And Boone County authorities to be passive and say ‘Let’s just wait and see what happens in Cooper County first.’ But in both counties, prosecutors are showing compassion, courage and leadership by pursuing this serial predator. We applaud both of them.”
SNAP is also begging others with information or suspicions about the predator “to step forward, get help, and help protect kids” by sharing what they know with police and prosecutors in all three counties.
Officials of the Jefferson City diocese let Howard move to and work in Missouri, even though he was found guilty of molesting a New Jersey boy in the 1983. Catholic officials urged him to change his name from Fr. Carmine Sita to Fr. Jerry Howard and warned no one in Missouri about his past.
In 1983, Howard was convicted of molesting a New Jersey boy. (He got 5 years probation.) Less than a year later, however, Catholic officials let him legally change his name – from Fr. Carmine Sita to Fr. Jerry Howard worked at Sts. Peter and Paul church in Boonville. From 1983-1988, he sexually assaulted several boys, eventually leaving the parish, working at Charter, and then reportedly working in the Fulton area.
It’s not clear if he has ever been defrocked.
A photo of Howard is available at BishopAccountability.org