Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, July 18, 2011

AZ clergy sex victim faces death penalty; SNAP responds

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

We join the many who beg Arizona authorities to spare the life of Mr. West. Executing a man who suffered so much as a child is vengeance and solves nothing.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Arizona death-row inmate's appeal rejected by board

by Michael Kiefer - Jul. 14, 2011 - The Arizona Republic

FLORENCE - Thomas West stood in a cage in a hearing room at the Eyman Prison on Thursday, his hands cuffed to a chain around his waist as he begged the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency to recommend to Gov. Jan Brewer that she change his death sentence to life with no chance of parole.

Two psychologists spoke on his behalf, as did the Catholic bishop of Tucson. His aunt and brother detailed the physical abuse West had suffered at the hands of his father.

And a pedophile testified via video that he had performed oral sex on West when West was just a boy.

But the board split three to two against granting a commutation. They agreed unanimously to deny a reprieve while West's remaining appeal and a new lawsuit are still in court.

So unless a judge rules otherwise over the next few days, West will be executed by lethal injection Tuesday for the 1987 murder of Donald Bortle near Tucson.

West, 52, is a short, trim man with short gray hair. And as required by Arizona Department of Corrections policy, he appeared at his clemency hearing locked in a 4-by-4-by-8-foot cage.

His voice was deep and strong as he addressed Bortle's son, who appeared telephonically.

West expressed his remorse.

"This should never have happened," he said. "I have no idea why I did this. I can't figure it out."

He did not ask Bortle's family for forgiveness.

"I want them to find peace in their life," he said. "Carrying hate in your heart is like eating a poison pill and wondering why your enemy doesn't get sick."

He said he wanted to stay alive to keep his grown daughter off drugs and to give support to his 13-year-old grandson.

But David Bortle, the victim's son, was not moved.

"Mr. West did not give my dad that choice," he said. "Mr. West cannot keep using the past as an excuse. I believe that the time has come for this to be resolved and Mr. West should be executed as scheduled."

In July 1987, while drunk and on drugs, West went to Donald Bortle's trailer near Tucson to steal electronic goods. Bortle surprised him in the act and West beat Bortle with his fists, smashing all the bones in his face. Then he hogtied Bortle with a lamp cord and left him to die, though he claims that he never knew Bortle was dead until he was arrested days later in his hometown of Kankakee, Ill.

Over the course of a four-hour hearing, the relatives, the lawyers and two psychologists explained that West suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of years of abuse. His alcoholic father would beat his wife and both his sons. As a child, West was abused by three different adults: a special-education teacher, the parish priest and a neighbor.

The sexual abuse by the priest was documented in church records. And the neighbor appeared on video, admitting that he had forced sex on West.

"I thought he was feeling a little funny about it," he said, matter of factly, "But I really wanted what I wanted.

"He was young and cute with curly hair, really cute."

The psychologists testified that those experiences led to drug and alcohol abuse and PTSD, and that when West was startled by Bortle during the burglary, he snapped.

Deputy Pima County Attorney Rick Unklesbay stated that given the physical damage to Bortle's face, the murder must have been committed with a blunt object, and he noted that the record shows that West bragged about killing the "old man." Bortle was in his 50s.

When asked directly by board member Jack La Sota, "How did you kill him?" West replied that he used his fists, and he denied bragging about the act.

West said he did not realize he had killed Bortle.

"I honestly thought he was up and walking around when I was a block away from there," West said.

La Sota made a motion that the board recommend commutation to the governor. Board Chairman Duane Belcher seconded the motion. But board members Ellen Stenson, Marilyn Wilkens and Ellen Kirschbaum outvoted them.

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Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests