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Spotlight Report

Priest who ran youth home in '70s accused

By Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 5/7/2002

A priest who ran the Alpha Omega home for troubled youths in Littleton during the 1970s was accused yesterday of molesting eight teenage boys, all but one of them at the home or at a vacation house in New Hampshire.

The Rev. Bernard J. Lane was named in seven separate lawsuits filed in Suffolk Superior Court. The Archdiocese of Boston had previously settled at least six cases of abuse involving Lane, who is now retired and living in Barnstead, N.H.

Two of the boys, who were not identified in their suit, contend that Lane said he had ''adopted'' them because their ''families were unfit and dangerous.''

According to the suit, Lane allegedly moved the boys into his private home in Littleton and enrolled them in local schools.

After about six months, the boys said, Lane ''abandoned'' them and they returned to their families. In a separate suit, the boys say two other men in addition to Lane allegedly molested them.

Neither of the men, the Rev. C. Melvin Surette, who succeeded Lane at Alpha Omega, and Dr. Scott Ward, a former psychiatrist at the home who now lives in Philadelphia, could be reached for comment.

Ward later faced criminal charges in Philadelphia for allegedly abusing a teenage boy. Attorney Nance Lyons, who filed the suits, said that Ward called one of the boys he allegedly abused in Massachusetts to ask if he would appear as a character witness at the trial.

One plaintiff, David Lemieux, now 40 and living in Leominster, said Lane abused him at Alpha Omega when he was 15. Though he is now married with three children, Lemieux said the abuse led to struggles with drug addiction, alcoholism and issues of his own sexuality.

''Lane stole away a good portion of my life,'' said Lemieux, the only alleged victim identified in the suits.

Lane was also accused of molesting a family friend from Woburn for four years, starting when the boy was 13. Neither Lane nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

Alpha Omega had a contract with the state to house youths who had run into trouble with the law. Lane was removed from the home in 1978 after abuse allegations led to a state investigation. He remained a priest until his retirement about three years ago.

However, the Globe has reported that the state Department of Youth Services started an investigation into Lane around 1976 or 1977. But the probe stalled when Lane refused to cooperate and would not let a team of investigators into the home.

The lawsuits also name several defendants, Life Resources Inc. and the Alpha Omega corporation, both nonprofits. Life Resources is Alpha Omega's parent corporation.

Bill Chiaradonna, the president of Life Resources, said the company took over Alpha Omega in 1988 and the accusations predate its ownership.

This story ran on page A16 of the Boston Globe on 5/7/2002.
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