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Former St. James chaplain being held on $2 million bond

February 07, 2001

Former St. James chaplain being held on $2 million bond



From AP and staff reports

An Episcopal priest charged with molesting two boys at the St. James School in Hagerstown more than 15 years ago was being held in an Illinois jail on $2 million bond Wednesday.

Police arrested the Rev. Kenneth Behrel Monday in the Chicago suburb of Grayslake, where he is rector of St. Andrew's Church. He was lodged in the Lake County jail Tuesday after a bond hearing.

Behrel, 51, was chaplain at the Episcopal prep school near Hagerstown from 1980 to 1985, when he left due to liturgical differences with the school's administration, according to John Rabb, acting bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

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Police said two former students allege Behrel gave them alcohol and abused them during trips to Chicago and Michigan from 1981 to 1986. One of the alleged victims now lives in Montana and the other in Alexandria, Va., police said.

Behrel was charged with two counts of child sexual abuse in Maryland and with weapons and drug violations in Illinois, stemming from a search of his home.

Maryland State Police Trooper 1st Class Michael Potter said the investigation began almost three years ago. It progressed slowly, in part because of the difficulty in finding former students, he said.

The investigation began in 1998 after a former student alleged to his local police department in Flathead, Mont., that he had been abused from 1982 to 1985, Potter said.

The information was forwarded to Hagerstown.

The first student gave authorities the name of another student he alleged had been abused, Potter said.

When Potter contacted the second student in Alexandria, Va., he was reluctant to talk about what happened, Potter said.

"He had never told anybody, not even his wife," he said.

He told a story of abuse similar to that of the first student, Potter said.

Both former students described a footlocker in which they alleged Behrel kept pornography and sex devices.

Potter said he made a recent trip to Illinois to search Behrel's home for the footlocker and to serve Behrel with a warrant.

"The search warrant was a shot in the dark, but we found what we were looking for," Potter said.

A footlocker was found in the home, along with a small amount of cocaine and a rifle Behrel didn't have licensed, he alleged.

The Episcopal Diocese of Chicago said it supports a full police investigation of the charges against Behrel. The diocese also said it has a program in sexual misconduct prevention.

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