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Abusive NM Priest Has Parole Hearing

By Joline Gutierrez Krueger-Albuquerque Tribune Reporter
September 14, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest sentenced to 55 to 275 years in prison for molesting eight boys got another chance at parole today.

The parole board for the Rev. David Holley made a decision this morning, but it won't be released to the public until Holley is notified in writing, said Cindy Aragon, chairwoman of Holley's parole board today.

Aragon said that is standard procedure, and the decision would likely be public by Monday.

Victims of Holley here and across the country said Monday they planned to do everything they could to stop his parole.

"He's just a very pathetic person who preys on weak children," said Robert Curtis, an Albuquerque lawyer who was one of the boys Holley admitted to molesting in Alamogordo in the early 1970s. "He's just trying to get out of jail to do it all over again."

Holley, 77, had already been granted parole May 26, but the decision was rescinded, and Robert Martinez, the executive director of the New Mexico Adult Parole Board, was fired by Gov. Bill Richardson for failing to notify Holley's victims of the hearing.

Curtis said Holley has had five parole hearings since pleading guilty to eight counts of molestation in 1993. Curtis said he has been advised of only two of the hearings, including the one today at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas.

Curtis said Monday he wouldn't miss this one.

"I get five minutes to make a statement," he said.

In those minutes, he and at least one other Alamogordo victim likely tried to condense a lifetime of betrayal, pain and shame caused by a man they once believed to be one of God's own.

"He had so much power," said Boston resident Phil Saviano, who in 1996 settled a lawsuit against Holley for molesting him in the 1960s at a parish in East Douglas, Mass. "This was the guy we believed was able to perform miracles, change wine into blood, forgive sin. He was so well-respected by adults, I felt that I was to blame."

Holley, then the assistant pastor at St. Denis Church in the small Massachusetts town, charmed Saviano, then 11, with his attention, his humor and his card tricks, said Saviano, who founded the New England chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, as a result of the abuse.

"I felt very lucky," said Saviano, who delivered newspapers each day to the rectory just up the street from his home. "He started very innocently with me, asking me to stay after catechism, move a box for him, re-arrange things in the choir loft."

Two or three months later, the deck of cards Holley pulled out for his tricks now had black-and-white photos of naked women on them, Saviano said. A separate deck had color photos of couples in sexual poses, he said.

"I had not yet gone through puberty, and I was curious to see the pictures," he said. "It was our secret. I had absolutely no sense of what was coming next."

Discussions of sex came next, followed by what Saviano calls very unpleasant episodes of oral sex and masturbation that 40 years later are still vivid and disturbing.

"What I still don't understand was how I couldn't explain why I didn't want to do this; why I never had it in me to scream and kick," he said. "I couldn't go to any adult, my parents, my Italian Catholic family. So I kept it to myself and tried to stay out of his way."

At least four times, records show, church officials who knew of Holley's sexual deviance sent him for treatment at church-run rehabilitation centers, including the Servants of the Paraclete's West Side location in Albuquerque in 1971.

While being treated there, Holley was cleared to work weekends at needy parishes, including St. Jude Mission in Alamogordo.

"They thought he was cured, and that's when I met him," Curtis said.

Like Saviano seven years before, Curtis was an 11-year-old paperboy living just down the street from Holley's new parish.

And, like Saviano, Curtis said Holley groomed him as a victim, again with the deck of cards.

"Quite frankly, Father Holley is a master manipulator," Curtis said. "He can appear contrite, apologetic. All through his career, he's convinced church officials that he's OK. But he's not OK."

But state Parole Board Chairman Tim Kline said he and other board members were convinced of Holley's remorse and satisfied with the stringent conditions that were to have been imposed on Holley.

"These were not easy conditions," said Kline, a former Albuquerque city councilor and police officer.

Under the previous parole conditions, Holley would have to be accepted to an intensive sex offender program at the Las Vegas (N.M.) Medical Center. The wait could have been two to three months, and the program itself would have lasted from six months to a year, Kline said.

If Holley had successfully completed the program, he would have to submit an acceptable placement plan, Kline said. Holley would also have to wear an ankle monitor, register as a sex offender, and refrain from being around minors or working in a capacity that would allow him to come in contact with minors, he said.

Kline said he and the board members who made the decision to grant Holley's parole would not hear today's case because of Richardson's displeasure with Martinez, the parole board's former executive director.

Saviano said he hopes victim pressure will be enough to keep Holley behind bars.

"If parole is granted to David Holley, thousands of people - from victims, to police, to prosecutors - will feel that their trust in the system has been violated," a letter sent by SNAP to the parole board states.


1958: David Holley ordained as Roman Catholic priest.

1962-64: First assignment to Worcester Diocese, Massachusetts. Sexual allegations arise but are not publicly addressed.

1968: Sent to Seton Psychiatric Institute in Baltimore because of allegations related to 18-year-old male hospital patient.

1968-71: Church officials cannot find parishes willing to accept "the possibility of his having another relapse," a Wilmington, Del., bishop writes.

1971: Sent to Servants of the Paraclete's Pius XII Villa on West Side and therapy at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque.

1972-76: Weekend ministry at St. Jude Mission Church, Alamogordo, initially still under Paraclete care.

1975-76: Assistant pastor, St. Raphael parish, El Paso. More allegations arise.

1976-82: Pastor, Sacred Heart Church, McCamey, Texas. Also associate pastor, Our Lady of the Valley, El Paso.

1979: Returns to Paraclete.

1982-84: Pastor, St. Lawrence Church, Garden City, Texas.

1984-85: Assistant pastor, St. Joseph's Church, Amarillo, Texas. Left when accused of making advances to another priest's nephew. Ordered back into counseling.

1985-87: Chaplain, St. Joseph's Hospital and Vista Sandia Hospital, Albuquerque.

1987-88: Assistant chaplain, St. Anthony Hospital, Denver. Forced out after allegations of sexual incident with adult male.

1988: Retired, Denver.

DECEMBER 1992: Sued on allegations of molesting St. Jude boys in Alamogordo. Checks in to St. Luke Institute in Suitland, Md.

JANUARY 1993: Arrested on eight sexual abuse charges concerning eight Alamogordo boys.

MARCH 1993: Pleads guilty to all eight charges.

APRIL 1993: Four Massachusetts men file suit against Worcester Diocese for Holley's alleged abuse of them.

JUNE 4, 1993: Sentenced to from 55 to 275 years in prison for molesting the eight Alamogordo boys.

OCT. 4, 1994: Settlement filed in Alamogordo abuse lawsuit for undisclosed amount of money. By now, there are 17 plaintiffs.

MAY 26, 2004: Granted parole with stringent conditions after serving 11 years; awaiting opening at a sex-offender program in Las Vegas, N.M., when decision rescinded because victims were not notified of the parole hearing.

TODAY: Reconvening of parole hearing in Los Lunas.

Sources: Dallas Morning News; New Mexico District Court; Archdiocese of Denver; Phil Saviano; Robert Curtis; Boston Globe

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests