Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Five Teachers Say "Billy Doe" Was A Happy Kid At St. Jerome's, And Not Some Dark, Depressed Loner

By Ralph Cipriano
for bigtrial.net

"Billy Doe" never underwent any drastic personality change while attending St. Jerome Catholic School.

That was the testimony today of five of Billy's former teachers from St. Jerome's who paraded through the witness stand as the defense began presenting its case at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial.

Billy Doe is the pseudonym in the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury report for a ten-year-old altar boy who was allegedly raped in fifth grade by two priests who lived in the St. Jerome rectory -- Father Edward V. Avery and Father Charles Engelhardt. The following year, Billy was allegedly raped by his sixth grade teacher at St. Jerome's, Bernard Shero, after the teacher supposedly offered Billy a ride home.

The prosecution has alleged that after being raped by three predators, Billy changed from a happy-go-lucky extrovert into a dark, depressed loner. But that's not what the faculty at St. Jerome's saw.

"He was a happy child," said Joann Hayes, a teacher at St. Jerome's who taught Billy art and music from second grade through eighth grade. "I never had any problems with him," Hayes said. She remembered Billy as part of the cast in a 1999 school musical, "Christmas Show Around The World."

"He was a good kid, a happy kid" agreed Donna Klopp, who taught Billy math in second grade, and recalled that Billy always enjoyed being "the center of attention."

She remembered Billy in eighth grade as a member of the bell choir maintenance crew when she was a bell ringer for the choir.

The bell choir at St. Jerome's has become a bone of contention at the trial. Billy told the jury he was a member of the bell choir maintenance crew back in fifth grade when Father Avery asked him to stay after Mass, and then he raped him, Billy charged.

But Clopp told the jury that only eight grade boys were allowed to be members of the bell choir maintenance crew because of the heavy equipment they had to move. Not only were fifth graders barred from serving on the maintenance crew, Clopp told the jury, but so were sixth and seventh graders.

The reason was simple, Clopp testifed. The members of the bell choir maintenance crew had to set up 30-pound tables, and carry bell cases that weighed even more than 30 pounds, Clopp told the jury. Only the eighth grade boys were big and strong enough to do the job, she said.

Well, by eighth grade, hadn't Billy become a dark and depressed loner, a defense lawyer asked.

"Not in our school," Clopp told the jury.

But Clopp admitted she had no first hand knowledge of who set up the bells. Under cross-examination, Clopp told a prosecutor that she wasn't there watching when the bells were set up. By the time she showed up to ring her bell, the work of setting up the bell choir had already been done, she testified.

Eileen Friend taught Billy Doe in eighth grade at St. Jerome's. Billy was also a member of her art club.

"He was a very nice kid," she told the jury. "A kind boy, talkative with others."

But didn't he become a dark, depressed loner, a defense lawyer asked.

"Never," she said.

Friend also testified that only eighth graders were allowed to serve in the bell maintenance crew. Everybody knew who was on the crew, she said, because the boys were allowed to leave class early so they could set up for the bell choir.

Were fifth graders allowed on the bell choir maintenance crew?

"Never," she said. "They couldn't."

Elizabeth Carr taught Billy Doe in second grade. She described him as a polite, friendly boy with a great sense of humor. He was no depressed loner she said.

Janet McKeever, a teacher at St. Jerome's for 22 years, taught Billy English and was his home room teacher. She also supervised production of the yearbook in Billy's eighth grade year, 2002, when he graduated from St. Jerome's.

Billy "was very enthusiastic," McKeever recalled. He was always willing to do work for the yearbook on his home computer and bring it in to class. At the time, the Catholic school did not have up-to-date computers, Clopp said.

She recalled Billy as "very outgoing, enthusiastic." Asked by a defense lawyer if Billy ever became a withdrawn and depressed loner, McKeever replied, "I never saw that."

Instead, she recalled a "gregarious" kid who "liked to be involved in a lot of things."

"He was very upbeat, he was a very happy kid," McKeever said.

The defense also presented six character witnesses today on behalf of Father Engelhardt. The character witnesses included the priest's sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece, as well as the provincial of Engelhardt's religious order, the Wilmington-Philadelphia province of the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales. The former athletic director of North Catholic High School also testified on behalf of Engelhardt. Bernard Shero's sister appeared on her brother's behalf as a character witness.

Sadly, under the rules of the court, character witnesses can only testify about the reputation of a person in the community for being a "peaceful and law-abiding citizen." Character witnesses were heavily used in the first archdiocese sex abuse trial last year on behalf of Msgr. William J. Lynn. The witnesses all are stuck with the same script, so they mouth the same platitudes, and in the end, it becomes a fairly meaningless ritual.

One family member of a defendant who broke out of the mold today was Bonita Shero, Bernard Shero's mother. Burton A. Rose, Shero's defense lawyer, asked Bonita Shero about her son's visual handicap.

Bonita Shero said her son was born with congenital cataracts. Between the ages of six months and seven years old, her son endured 23 surgeries, his mother testified. He is legally blind in his right eye. He has worn "heavy-duty glasses" since he was 18 months old, she said.

In school, kids were cruel to her son. "He was bullied," his mother said. "They took his glasses, they took his lunch."

His mother considered putting Bernard Shero in the Overbrook School for the Blind, but then decided to mainstream him. "He has to live in a sighted world," she said, so she wanted him to be educated in a regular school.

She told the jury how she and her husband bought a house for her son a year after he got his first teaching job at St. Jerome's in 1998. But Bernard Shero only lived there for three months before he moved out.

"The children were harassing him, throwing rocks at his home," his mother testified.

Diane Nicolo, another teacher at St. Jerome's, testified that Bernard Shero told her that "there were children throwing stones and rocks at his home."

Another defense witness was Sister Mary Fischetti, St. Jerome's parish director of service. The nun testified that the sacristy at St. Jerome's had four doors to the sacristy before it was remodeled in 2001. The doors were usually kept open, especially one that led to a bathroom used by parishioners, the nun testified.

Billy Doe told the jury he was raped in a sacristy by Father Engelhardt after a Mass during the 1998-99 school year, after the priest allegedly locked all four doors.

Were you aware of any time where all four doors of the sacristy were closed and locked, a defense lawyer asked.

"Never," the nun replied.


  1. Replies
    1. It seems that individuals for TheMediaReport have no constructive comments to leave since this is the same response they left on a earlier blog. I believe he views these cases as a win or lose game and not keeping in mind that lives on both sides of the table are on the line. I am always very interested in reading what everyone has to say regarding this case, and this comment only shows the immaturity of this individual. I applaud Mr. Cipriano and other reporters who go out and do a great job in reporting this case, and hope if you know this individual you do not consider him a fellow journalist.

    2. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. There is just not enough there, based upon the reports so far, to convict these defendants. This does blow the Media Reports mantra that no priest can get a fair trial in Philadelphia and that Priests automatically get convicted. When priests get convicted or plead guilty, the Media Report, I.e. , David Pierre, will claim that the judge or prosecutors broke the law, cheated, or railroaded the poor innocent priest. If the priest gets acquitted, it means that all priest prosecutions are bogus. Pierre can hear weeks of testimony about priest hierarchy lying, hiding evidence, transferring admitted pedophiles to other parishes, therapist shopping, and secret files, but none of that registers or is worth mentioning on his vanity blog. The LA Times uncovers reams of documents implicating bishops in a broad cover up, and he will claim media bias, but he will go to great lengths to explain outright confessions and guilty pleas.

    3. Mr. Ecker, I think I would worry about my own maturity if I was prone to whining like you do all the time. Also, why do you bully the kind and just Archbishop? (His correct title whether you like it or not-more immaturity shown calling him "Father"). Maybe I incorrectly assume you are an adult.
      In any case, it seems to me that Media Report's "remark" is innocent enough-no harm intended to you or anyone else. The suspicion of most after the proceedings so far is that Billy Doe has concocted this story and wants money for it. What do you think?

    4. Mr. Ecker, you did make a constructive comment about this being a terrific source of information on the trials. Thanks, Mr.RC!

    5. If Chaput deserved the respect of being called archbishop I would have called him by that. It was only out of kindness I even called him father. He is nothing more than a simple man. No better than you or me unless you give him that power to think he is. If you wish to call me a bully because I questioned your leader regarding the investigations of other clergy members and confronted him with a statement made from his own mouth then I'm a bully, and if you came to that conclusion by reading the posted e-mails you would be shocked to read the additional e-mails. Now as far as this case goes I want to say this on the record " as a survivor I know how the church operates and I try to maintain an open mind when it comes to these cases, if the charged are found guilty they should be punished, if it is found that individuals such as Billy Doe have lied then they too should be punished. In the end no matter what the outcome is you and I will be able to continue on with our lives. But the comment made by TheMediaReport or should I say the reporter for TheMediaReport only shows a lack of use of brain cells when making a comment on this case.

    6. Bombshell - the truth about the pro-pedophile-priest group "themediareport" and Dave Pierre above:

      TheMediaReport, and its owner, Dave Pierre, coughing sarcastically above, should have mentioned that he is trying to sell books at THEMEDIAREPORT website about how innocent these pedophile priests are, even after they plead guilty, multiple times, to child rape.

      On example is Fr Gordon Macrae, a convicted pedophile priest who Dave supports (and who recommends Dave's books). Macrae PLEADED GUILTY to sex with 3 children, and was also accused by at least another 7. Macrae is serving 30-60 years for raping another, but Dave will tell you how those 3 GUILTY pleas aren't an admission that he's a child rapist.

      The Catholic church admitted 4,392 substantiated, accused, child sex abusing priests in their own John Jay report of 2004, and no institution in history is even close to this number. Catholics like Dave will lie and say its as bad elsewhere, and that everyone is just Anti-Catholic, but it isn't true. People are anti-Catholic because Catholics are pro-pedophile, but Dave Pierre actually gets paid for it.

      The Catholic church is BY FAR the world's largest pedophile protection program. No one else is even close.

      Dave Pierre is literally a professionally paid pedophile priest protector.

  2. Thanks, Ralph, for the report today. I've been looking forward to reading it all day!

  3. "This does blow the Media Reports mantra that no priest can get a fair trial in Philadelphia and that Priests automatically get convicted."

    You would be correct except for the fact that I have *never* said that at all. >>> http://www.themediareport.com/about/

    Please stop making things up about the site, kopride. Thank you.

    1. Semanticly, you are correct. Instead, you stated that Lynn Abraham had an anti -church agenda; and criticized the current DA, Williams, as being anti-catholic. You also criticized the judges assigned to the case including Hughes and Samarina as being anti catholic or prejudiced against the church. Now, you don't know any of these people and have no legal training, but most of your posts about the Philadelphia trials have been virtually porn for the church apologists who want to believe that these cases are nothing more than church-hating prosecutors, biased judges, and a vindictive press. And your mantra is the same no matter how overwhelming the guilt of the priest or culpability of bishops who enabled them, your Gordon "Free Mumia" MacCrae," being the best example. Oh, and your other constant is that any damaged victim is a money grubbing liar egged on by greedy Plaintiff's lawyers. While decrying stereotypes about your beloved church, you cast aspersions against everybody else in the system charged with investigating and prosecuting crime involving priests. The other comical part of you is that you call yourself a "journalist" and criticize other accredited journalists, but I haven't found any reputable newspaper or magazine where you've ever been published. From what I've seen of your writing and objectivity on this issue, you wouldn't even be qualified to write a fluff PR piece for The National Enquirer, or a "Bigfoot" article for the Weekly World News. Any objective person who looks at your site will have the same reaction. Pravda was more objective.

    2. And, kopride, remember that he is trying to sell books on his web site.

    3. and of course, Seth Williams is a devout Catholic, and is running for mayor, which is why he didn't go after Bishop Cistone and Bishop Cullen, two other professional pedophile protectors in the Catholic church who were involved in shredding evidence about 35 known pedophile priests back in 1994.

      From Seth's own bio page at http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/meetTheDA.html you can see that

      "Seth is also proud to serve on the boards of several community organizations, including the Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, ... St. Cyprian Catholic Church, and the St. Martin de Porres Foundation.

      Seth also removed the first grand jury report from the web site, since it revealed so many evil things about the Catholic church.

  4. All of the associated heartache, pain and expense could probably have been avoided if Avery, Englehardt and Shero been afforded the opportunity to confront Billy in a preliminary hearing. But the judge said no.

    Billy testified that he was smoking pot on a daily basis at 11 years of age when he was either in 5th or 6th grade. Then he 'graduated' to Percosets, Xanax, and hallucinogenics. But he didn't say when this transition took place - grade or high school.

    Five (5) grade school teachers testified that Billy was 'a good kid, a happy kid'. They 'never saw any problems with him'.....

    Don't you think that either his teachers (or for that matter - Billy's mother - a registered nurse) would have detected any signs of drug abuse were it actually present while Billy was in grade school?

    Billy's mom testified that Billy was ejected from Archbishop Ryan at 14 (his freshman year) for smoking pot and for carrying brass knuckles.

    I wonder if Billy got 'hooked' on prescription drugs and then on heroin while in high school and fabricated the whole abuse scenario as a convenient (and later - as a potentially lucrative) cover story.

    Or maybe he took one 'Magic Mushroom' too many.

    1. or maybe he was trying to deal with being raped by "Christ on earth", which is what Catholic priests call themselves. Maybe that would be too much for a 10 year old to bear. Maybe that.

    2. @Joe. Actually, no. The prosecuter can object to cross examination of victims on issues related to credibility, which is the purview of the jury at the trial. A judge sitting at such a hearing merely determines whether there is sufficient evidence to make out the elements of the case essentially with the assumption that the jury will credit the testimony of the victim. For example, Sandusky waived his hearing entirely. In other words, the judge was merely following the law applicable to all defendants. There was no prejudice because the Defendants were priests. This accuser clearly has baggage and credibility issues, but that wouldn't give the judge a basis to toss it at the Preliminary Hearing stage. And most rape accusers in Philadelphia County have baggage. Criminals generally hang out with criminals and dirt bags. Child predators often look for kids with family, social, personality, or substance abuse problems. Despite being generally disgusted by the church's institutional handling of cases generally, I don't like this case. It seems Shero was targeted for accusations because he was the neighborhood weirdo and was socially retarded as well; and Engelhardt seems like an afterthought who had no real contact. But that's not uncommon in rape cases. He said/he said.

  5. kopride,

    Thank you very much for explaining this.

    You, sir, are a gentleman!


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