Priest is accused of raping girl
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff, and Caroline Cole, Globe Correspondent, 1/16/2002
AVERHILL - A popular Catholic priest who ran a youth group here allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl twice in the church rectory, according to police and prosecutors. The Rev. Kelvin E. Iguabita, 33, pleaded not guilty yesterday in Haverhill District Court to two counts of rape of a child and one count of assault with intent to rape.
Iguabita had for two years been parochial vicar of All Saints Church in Haverhill. His alleged victim told police that the priest flirted with her and promised to marry her and then, after she had repeatedly declined his requests to have sex, sexually assaulted her.
Iguabita ended one of the assaults so he could go hear confessions, the alleged victim told police. The alleged assaults took place in 2000.
Iguabita surrendered to Haverhill police Monday night, after learning that they had obtained a warrant for his arrest Jan. 8. Police Sergeant John Arahovites said the investigation is ongoing, but he would not say whether police believe there may be other victims.
The case comes at a difficult time for the Archdiocese of Boston, which is already reeling from damage done by the alleged behavior of John J. Geoghan, who is alleged in civil suits to have molested more than 130 young boys over three decades as a Boston priest.
Jurors are to hear opening statements this morning in a criminal trial of Geoghan, who faces a charge of indecent assault and battery for allegedly touching the buttocks of a 10-year-old boy in the swimming pool of the Waltham Boys and Girls Club in the fall of 1991, when Geoghan was assigned to St. Julia Church in Weston. Selection of a jury of 10 men and five women was completed yesterday after two days of questioning.
The archdiocese yesterday notified the news media of Iguabita's arrest, and urged anyone with information about misconduct by Iguabita to contact the state Department of Social Services.
"The Archdiocese of Boston will cooperate fully with the authorities as this investigation continues," said archdiocesan spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey.
Iguabita is being held at the Middleton House of Correction on $15,000 cash bail. Essex Assistant District Attorney John DePaolo successfully argued that Iguabita posed a risk of flight because he is a citizen of Colombia and has no family locally.
Judge Kevin M. Herlihy ordered Iguabita to turn in his passport, and barred him from having contact with the alleged victim.
Iguabita, who sometimes also uses his mother's name, Rodriguez, was ordained in Boston in 1999, and served as parochial vicar of All Saints Church from June of 1999 through June of 2001, when he abruptly left his assignment there.
He worked briefly at the Metropolitan Tribunal, the archdiocesan judicial branch, before requesting a leave of absence in July 2001. The archdiocese says it learned of the allegations against Iguabita only recently.
Morrissey also said she did not know why Iguabita left All Saints.
Iguabita has been living in Gloucester, according to Steve O'Connell, a spokesman for the Essex County district attorney.
According to the state Criminal History Systems Board, Iguabita has no criminal record in Massachusetts.
Morrissey said Iguabita's behavior will also be investigated by the archdiocese, and that the allegations will be reported to the Vatican in accord with a new policy announced last week allowing the Vatican to take over the disciplinary proceedings against priests accused of sexual misconduct.
All Saints is a new parish, formed in 1998 as a result of the merger of four ethnic parishes in the Mount Washington section of Haverhill. Parish officials declined comment on Iguabita's arrest, but parishioners were stunned. A group of mothers gathered at the parish bowling alley said Iguabita had been wildly popular among young people at the church, who are now upset by his arrest.
George A. Florent, who has worshiped at the church now called All Saints for more than 50 years, said he was shocked.
"We're terribly disappointed," Florent said. "We had taken him out to dinner, and he showed every sign of being such a promising priest. Then suddenly he left the parish, and we didn't know why."
Florent said Iguabita had been director of the Catholic Youth Organization at the church, and that "the kids were crazy about him."
"He went skiing with them, took them to the ballgame, and they were very disappointed when he left," he said. "This has really ruined my day, because to me he was such a wonderful prospect who showed every sign of contributing greatly to the parish."
Michael Paulson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com
This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 1/16/2002.