A watch group is urging victims of molestation by priests to come forward and contact police in Columbia. Gerald Howard is convicted of sex crimes and currently under investigation in Boone County. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also called SNAP, said Monday there could be multiple victims in Boone County.Howard worked at the now closed Charter Hospital in Columbia after he was a priest in Boonville where he faces child molestation charges. If Howard molested children in Columbia, advocates say it would have been recent enough for a statute of limitations not to apply. This could keep Howard behind bars for good, so SNAP is asking victims to come forward and appealing to the church for help.”We suspect very strongly that there are others out there who are still struggling in isolation and shame and self blame,” said David Clohessy the Director of SNAP.Advocates marched in front of the Columbia Police Department urging possible victims of Father Howard to talk to law enforcement. “It’s critically important that if someone was younger that was victimized here in Boone County that they contact the authorities because it’s an easier case on the statute of limitations.” said Bryan Bacon who is the lawyer of three of the victims.Howard’s lawyers are working to have current charges including kidnapping and forcible sodomy dropped, and a judge in Cooper County is deciding if the statute of limitations for three victims already ran out. Therefore advocates are asking if there are more here in Columbia. “We know of at least one victim from the late 80’s here in Boone County when Howard was at Charter Hospital, and just given his propensity … the fact that he was abusing one kid in all likelihood he was abusing many others at that time,” said Bacon.If there are more victims, advocates want them to report the crimes to local police departments instead of the diocese. They’re also asking the church to help spread this message. SNAP sent letters to priests across Mid-Missouri and Bishop Gaydos asking them to help in this effort.The Jefferson City Diocese released a statement saying they support victims coming forward to authorities. Right now though they don’t have a comment on whether they will make announcements to their congregations.For advocates, no matter what happens they just don’t want Howard back on the streets. “Father Howard is really among the most vicious and shrewd and manipulative and we believe most dangerous serial predator,” said Clohessy.Howard was previously known as Carmine Sita and was convicted of molesting a child in New Jersey in the 1980’s. After that he came to Mid-Missouri and still remains a priest, although he is in jail. Advocates told ABC 17 News any information about him or crimes he committed can help.
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