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Central Nebraska priest, 62, charged with sexual assault after meeting with woman in rectory

Central Nebraska priest, 62, charged with sexual assault after meeting with woman in rectory

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The 62-year-old Catholic priest in central Nebraska insisted that a woman conduct a business meeting on Thanksgiving Day at his place, a church rectory where he lived in Ord.

He insisted on pouring her an alcoholic drink. And when she awoke hours later with his face in her genitals, the priest she hardly knew but still trusted, a man three decades older, insisted on this: that he loved her.

This is according to a protection order that the woman, who is in her early 30s, sought and received Nov. 27, several days after that Nov. 22 visit to the rectory. Her account led authorities to arrest and charge the priest with first-degree sexual assault.

It’s a charge that carries a penalty of up to 50 years in prison.

Now that priest, the Rev. John Kakkuzhiyil, is being held at the Valley County Jail in Ord. Bail was set Friday at $150,000. Kakkuzhiyil would have to post 10 percent, or $15,000, to be released.

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On Friday, the priest’s attorney, Mark Porto, of Grand Island, said he doubted that Kakkuzhiyil would be able to do that. An initial court appearance has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Valley County Courthouse.

Porto noted that his client turned himself into the Nebraska State Patrol on Wednesday.

Kakkuzhiyil had been undergoing inpatient treatment at CHI Health St. Francis, a drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility in Grand Island, according to the Diocese of Grand Island, which covers all of Nebraska west of the Omaha and Lincoln dioceses.

Kakkuzhiyil is an Indian-born U.S. citizen whose service in Nebraska, according to the diocese, began in 2007 when he was named associate pastor of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Grand Island.

Subsequent assignments were pastor of St. Nicholas in Valentine and St. Mary in Nenzel (2008); pastor of Holy Rosary in Alliance and St. Bridget in Hemingford (2014); and pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ord and Sacred Heart in Burwell (2016).

Angie Fisher, a diocesan spokeswoman, said the diocese had not received prior complaints about Kakkuzhiyil.

A search of Nebraska court records revealed no prior record, except for a speeding ticket in 2007.

Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt was unavailable for comment Friday; he’s in Illinois attending a weeklong bishops’ retreat to pray about the clergy sexual abuse crisis that is rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

Reports from Pennsylvania and Illinois have given accounts of clergy sexual abuse of children and cover-up.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office is investigating claims of Catholic clergy abuse and has requested records from all three dioceses.

In an interview with The World-Herald last month, Bishop Hanefeldt said that a diocesan attorney had found no substantiated claims of abuse of minors but a handful of questionable cases that he turned over to the state.

This claim of abuse was reported to authorities on Nov. 26. On Dec. 1, Hanefeldt asked parishioners at the churches in Ord and Burwell, where Kakkuzhiyil served, to pray for the pastor and “his continuing struggles with depression and alcoholism,” according to the diocesan statement.

On Dec. 6, Kakkuzhiyil entered the St. Francis treatment program. On Dec. 15, the diocese placed the priest on administrative leave, which the diocese statement notes remains in effect “pending the outcome of the investigation and treatment.”

Kayla Clark, the newly sworn-in Valley County attorney, will prosecute the case.

In describing the charge in a petition filed Friday in Valley County Court, she wrote that Kakkuzhiyil subjected a person “to sexual penetration without the consent of the victim.”

On his client’s behalf, Porto said: “He turned himself in and is trying to take care of this right away.”

In the protection order, the victim said she blacked out and awoke in horror to an assault in progress. She said that Kakkuzhiyil put her hand on his penis and asked her to “put me inside you.”

“I freaked out, jumped off the bed, begged for my clothes, saying repeatedly, ‘This is not OK.’ ”

Clergy named in Archdiocese of Omaha's report

The names of those in the Archdiocese of Omaha's report on clergy who it says had been credibly accused of misconduct or abuse with minors since 1978. Five clergy — John Fiala, Deacon Emilio Morales Jordan, Francis Nigli, Andrew Syring and Deacon Duane Thome — were named in claims that came after 2002. Names link to World-Herald coverage when applicable. Source:

Name Parishes served
John Fiala Papillion St. Columbkille, Norfolk Sacred Heart, Omaha St. Joan of Arc, Omaha St. Peter, Omaha Christ the King, Spencer St. Mary, Wisner St. Joseph, Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
Deacon Emilio Morales Jordan No parishes listed
Francis Nigli Omaha St. Vincent de Paul, Papillion St. Columbkille, O'Neill St. Patrick; Amelia St. Joseph, Omaha St. Wenceslaus.
Andrew Syring Schuyler Divine Mercy, Omaha St. Bernard, Omaha. St. Wenceslaus, West Point St. Mary; Monterey, St. Boniface; Aloys, St. Aloysius; St. Charles, St. Anthony.
Deacon Duane Thome No parishes listed
Robert Allgaier Norfolk Sacred Heart, Ralston St. Gerald
Richard Arkfeld Omaha St. Rose, Atkinson St. Joseph, Omaha Holy Cross, Clyde St. Patrick, Lynch Assumption; Niobrara, St. William, Ewing St. Peter of Alcantara, Randolph St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Charles St. Anthony, Coleridge St. Michael; Belden St. Mary, Newcastle St. Peter; Ponca St. Joseph
John Buckson Omaha Our Lady of Guadalupe, Omaha St. Francis of Assisi, Omaha St. Agnes, Omaha Our Lady of Guadalupe, Schuyler St. Augustine
Donald Cleary Omaha Holy Cross, Omaha Christ the King, Omaha St. Peter, Omaha St. Patrick, O'Neill St. Patrick, Fordyce St. John; Constance St. Joseph, Wayne St. Mary, Fullerton St. Peter; Clarks, St. Peter, North Bend St. Charles Borromeo; Snyder, St. Leo the Great, Omaha St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Franklin Dvorak Norfolk Sacred Heart, O'Neill St. Patrick, Spencer St. Mary, Cleridge St. Michael; Mission of Belden, Hartington Holy Trinity, Omaha St. Wencesalus, Omaha St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
John Feeney (Extern) No parishes listed
Joseph Finch Omaha Our Lady of Lourdes, Boys Town Immaculate Conception (Dowd Chapel), Archdiocese of the Military Services, Diocese of Albany
James Gaughan (Extern) Omaha St. Pius X, Hartington Holy Trinity, Bellevue St. Bernadette, Omaha St. Thomas More, Duncan St. Stanislaus, Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica.
Gill, Edward Omaha St. Peter, Coleridge St. Michael, Norfolk Sacred Heart, Omaha St. Agnes, Plainview St. Paul, Butte Sts. Peter & Paul, Madison St. Leonard, Atkinson St. Joseph, Central City St. Michael Stanton St. Peter, Osmond St. Mary of the Seven Dolors, St. Edward St. Edward
Tom Glennon (SSC) No parishes listed.
Joseph Henry (OAR) No parishes listed
Daniel Herek Omaha Assumption, Omaha Christ the King, Omaha St. Joan of Arc, Omaha Mary Our Queen, Omaha St. Peter, Omaha St. Bernard, Coleridge St. Michael, Belden St. Mary, Beemer Holy Cross, Omaha St. Ann, Omaha St. Richard.
Joseph Hiepvan Ho (Extern) No parishes listed.
Michael Kelly Elgin St. Boniface, Omaha St. Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha St. Peter, Randolph St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Battle Creek St. Patrick, Neligh St. Francis of Assisi, Clearwater St. Theresa of Avila, Laurel St. Mary, Genoa St. Rose of Lima, Lyons St. Joseph.
Daniel Kenney (SJ) No parishes listed.
Jay Kruse Fremont St. Patrick, Omaha Roncalli High School, Omaha St. Pius X, Wynot Sacred Heart; St. James, St. Philip & James, Cedar Catholic High School, Ewing St. Peter of Alcantara; Deloit Township St. John, Pope John XXIII High School, Verdigre St. Wenceslaus, Niobrara St. William, O'Neill St. Patrick, Amelia St. Joseph.
Larry Toms Kulangara (SSP) No parishes listed
Duane Lukes Omaha St. Stanislaus, Dodge St. Wenceslaus, Omaha St. Pius X, Lindsay Holy Family, Omaha St. Ann, Norfolk Sacred Heart, Niobrara St. William, St. Edward St. Edward, Osmond St. Mary of the Seven Dolors, Norfolk Immaculata Monastery.
Aloysius McMahon Omaha St. Wencesalus, Boys Town Immaculate Conception (Dowd Chapel), Mission Work in Chile, Boys Town Immaculate Conception (Dowd Chapel), Rummel High School, Pierce St. Joseph, Mission Work in Peru, Wisner St. Joseph, Omaha St. Frances Cabrini, Omaha St. Joan of Arc, Omaha St. Peter, Mission Work in Ecuador
Mark Merkel Fremont St. Patrick, Omaha St. Cecilia Cathedral, O'Neill St. Patrick, West Point Central Catholic School, Beemer Holy Cross
Anthony Palmese (OAR) No parishes listed
Roland Peschel Dodge St. Wenceslaus, Creighton St. Ludger, Omaha St. Mary, Omaha St. Bernard, Omaha St. James, Omaha St. Margaret Mary, Randolph St. Jane Frances de Chantal, O'Neill St. Patrick, Amelia St. Joseph, Emmett Epiphany, Omaha St. Bernadette, Fremont St. Patrick, Olean Sacred Heart, Ralston St. Gerald
Anthony Petrusic Omaha Sts. Peter & Paul, Ryan High School, Omaha St. Catherine Hospital, Omaha, Notre Dame Convent, Omaha Sts. Peter & Paul, Omaha St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Croation Catholic Union of US & Canada
Deacon Tom Purnell No parishes listed
John Rizzo Omaha St. Ann, Omaha Holy Cross, Mission Work in Chile, Boys Town Immaculate Conception, Dixon St. Anne, Genoa St. Rose, Ponca St. Joseph, Waterbury Immaculate Conception, Menominee St. Boniface, Stanton St. Peter, Creighton St. Ludger, Clarks St. Peter, Omaha St. Peter, Omaha St. Ann
Perry Robinson (SJ) No parishes listed.
Al Salanitro Omaha St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Omaha Holy Cross, Laurel St. Mary, Dixon St. Anne, Blair St. Francis Borgia, Bellevue St. Bernadette
Thomas Sellentin Omaha St. Stanislaus, Elgin St. Boniface, Omaha St. Joan of Arc, West Point St. Mary, Lindsay Holy Family, Omaha Blessed Sacrament, Spencer St. Mary, Fullerton St. Peter, Menominee St. Boniface, Howells Sts. Peter & Paul and St. John, North Bend St. Charles Borromeo, Snyder St. Leo the Great
John Starostka Omaha St. Francis of Assisi, Creigthon St. Ludger, Omaha St. Philip Neri, Omaha St. Stanislaus, Platte Center St. Joseph, Newcastle St. Peter, Omaha St. Cecilia Cathedral, Cedar Rapids St. Anthony, Primrose St. Mary, Omaha St. Francis of Assisi
Robert Steinhausen Omaha Holy Cross, South Sioux City St. Michael, Spencer St. Mary, Norfolk Sacred Heart, Papillion St. Columbkille.
Patrick Henry Papillion St. Columbkille, Maryknoll Missions, South Sioux City St. Michael, Maryknoll Missions, Diocese of Cleveland
Deacon Robert Pickett No parishes listed
Jeff Zyla South Sioux City St. Michael, Omaha St. Leo, Petersburg St. John the Baptist, Raeville St. Bonaventure, Wisner St. Joseph, West Point Central Catholic High School, Aloys St. Aloysius, 402-444-1136

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