January 17, 2013

Suicide note read at teachers’ sex assault trial

1-17-2013 Pennsylvania:

Facing imminent arrest for the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old pupil in his English class, parochial school teacher Bernard Shero penned a sad letter apologizing to his parents for the "ridicule and shame," took an overdose of sleeping pills and waited for death in his Bristol apartment.

Death did not arrive on Feb. 10, 2011 but Philadelphia police Det. Andrew Snyder did and the detective told a Common Pleas Court jury today how lucky timing let him arrest Shero instead of follow him to the morgue.

Shero, 49, and Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, are on trial for the sexual assault of the 10-year-old in 1998 and 1999 while he was an altar boy and pupil at St. Jerome's church and school in the Northeast.

The former altar boy reported the sexual assaults to authorities in January 2009 and by February 2011 the then-former teacher knew he was going to be arrested and charged as part of the county grand jury investigation of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Shero's letter did not admit to the alleged sex assault or mention the boy, now 24, and identified in the grand jury report as "Billy Doe."

But city prosecutors successfully moved to allow the jury to hear the note under the legal theory that the attempted suicide could be interpreted as "evidence of guilt" - the same as evidence of a suspect's decision to flee prosecution.

Defense attorney Burton A. Rose did not linger on the issue during his cross-examination of Snyder.

"There is no way I could survive another fight," Shero's note to his parents read. "I along with our family will be dragged through the mud and in the end, whether innocent or guilty, I will have nothing and you will have to live with the ridicule and shame."

Shero removed his glasses and wiped tears as Snyder read the note, which also made arrangements to give Shero's financial assets to his parents.

In addition to Shero and Engelhardt, the victim says he was also sexually assaulted by another priest who lived at the St. Jerome's rectory.

That other priest, Edward Avery, now 70, pleaded guilty last year shortly before he was to go on trial with two other priests in the investigation of clergy sex abuse of children. Now defrocked and serving 2-1/2 to five years in prison, Avery is expected to testify later today. ..Source.. by Joseph A. Slobodzian

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