Former Cooper Co. priest pleads guilty to child sex charges

Former Boonville priest pleads guilty to child sex crimes

BOONVILLE, Mo. - A former priest appeared in Cooper County Court Tuesday afternoon for a hearing.

Gerald Howard, also known as Carmine Sita, pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sodomy against three teen boys. One count of forcible sodomy and two counts of attempted forcible sodomy were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea. 

According to Deacon Dan Joyce of the Jefferson City Diocese, Howard was removed from the priesthood more than year ago.

Howard was sentenced to 12 years in prison on each charge to run concurrently.

The incidents happened between 1984 and 1987, according to court documents. Charges for those crimes were filed in 2010. 

In court Tuesday afternoon, the judge quoted a letter from one of the victims who said he didn't believe the sentence was long enough, but agreed to it because he was too scared to face the priest in the courtroom.

For each of the three counts Howard was charged with, the court went over what happened in the case. 

The abuse occurred when Howard was a priest at St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville. All three victims told police they told the priest they didn't want to do anything sexual with him, but Howard forced them to. The victims also stated that Howard threatened them so they wouldn't tell their parents. 

Howard allegedly gave one of the victims alcohol and marijuana to entice him.

After leaving Boonville, Howard worked as a counselor at the now-closed Charter Hospital in Columbia. 

Howard has had no priestly assignments since he was removed from active service in 1984, according to the Jefferson City Diocese.

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