Margaretville priest investigated for endangering welfare of children
By Brian Sweeney
A Margaretville priest is being investigated for possibly endangering the welfare of children.
The Delaware County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant Monday on properties owned by the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Parish to gather potential evidence against the subject of the investigation, the Very Rev. James McDevitt, pastor of the church.
Sheriff’s deputies were seen removing numerous boxes and bags from the church’s rectory and adjacent garage on Monday morning. Sheriff’s personnel also carried out extensive searches of the church and the parish center.
Delaware County Under-sheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said that Monday’s search at the Sacred Heart Parish complex resulted from a complaint received several weeks ago.
Undersheriff Vredenburgh said that, upon further review of the original complaint and subsequent follow-ups, it was deemed there was sufficient reason to execute a search warrant on the premises.
He would not reveal what type of evidence was found or what possible charges may be pending against the priest.
The undersheriff did confirm that his department has also checked with officials at the Middletown Transfer Station and the county landfill in Walton in an attempt to locate a computer that is reportedly missing from the priest’s residence.
Father McDevitt is recuperating at Albany Medical Center from injuries he suffered in an automobile accident last week. Investigators said the priest has been interviewed regarding the case.
Kenneth Goldfarb, director of communications for the Albany Diocese under whose auspices the Sacred Heart Parish falls, commented on Tuesday, “All we can say is that they issued a warrant and the church is cooperating.”
A family member of one of the alleged victims, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the News that her relative one of several young men with whom Father McDevitt allegedly had inappropriate contact.
The woman said that in recent years, Father McDevitt has often purchased expensive gifts for a group of adolescent boys he has befriended. The gifts include bicycles and iPods, as well as making cash available for the boys to spend at events such as the local carnival, she said.
The woman said she was long suspicious of the gifts and that boys were told the presents were bought from a “youth group” fund.
In April, one of the boys reported to his mother that Father McDevitt had given him a gift and announced that he was “part of the group.”
Shortly afterward, Father McDevitt allegedly confronted the young man about some past misbehavior and proceeded to physically punish the boy.
The young man’s mother reportedly confronted Father McDevitt about the incident and the priest allegedly responded that the boy was in need of “discipline.”
Other boys are alleged to have also admitted that they were physically disciplined by Father McDevitt.
“We all feel foolish because we trusted the man,” she told the News.
Father McDevitt has been pastor at the Sacred Heart Parish for more than five years.