The former priest pedophile next door

April 21, 2008 9:31:49 PM PDT
One of the nation's most well known child sex offenders was living in our backyard and you would have never known.He's one of the nation's first Catholic priests ever accused of child sex abuse.

READ MORE ON THIS STORY ON TED'S BLOG

He made it to Houston and lived for years without ever being detected until Eyewitness News tracked him down. We're talking about a guy who admits he abused 39 kids inside his church rectory. Then he told us there's no reason to fear him or a need for him to register as a sex offender because he is making sure he doesn't abuse any more kids.

It is one of those out of the way, unknown, unseen, anonymous spots you'd never see, unless you were looking for it. But in an RV parked at a La Marque bus company parking lot, one of the nation's most notorious former priest pedophiles was hiding in plain view.

Gil Gauthe was a parish priest in rural Louisiana in the mid 80's when allegations surfaced he was sexually abusing dozens of young boys at the church rectory. According to news reports, he fondled some boys in confessionals, convinced others to engage in sex acts with each other while the pedophile priest took Polaroid photos.

Apparently reluctant to believe it at first, published accounts at the time indicate the church tried to ignore it. Gauthe was put in counseling and told to disappear, but eventually he was charged with molesting 39 kids.

That made him one of the first priests in the country to be charged.

Gil Gauthe: "I paid for that."
Ted Oberg: "Have you paid for that?"
Gauthe: "Well, you know, please turn the microphone off."

Gauthe pleaded guilty to sexually molesting 37 boys and two girls in Louisiana. He was sentenced to 20 years in a prison, but with good time credit though, Gauthe walked out of Louisiana prisons in just nine years and headed for Texas.

Less than a year after his release, in 1996 Gauthe was in trouble again. This time accused of molesting his three year old neighbor at a Polk County subdivision.

"There wasn't any doubt in my mind Gauthe did what he was accused of," said Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon.

The boy's mother had no idea Gauthe was a sex offender. Back then he wasn't registered and because of problems with the three year old boy's memory, the Polk County charge was reduced to a non-sex crime and Gauthe didn't have to register as a sex offender for that either.

Ted Oberg: "Does any part of you feel you let a pedophile go?"
Lee Hon: "That case is one where you wish you could do more, because in my heart, I have no doubt he was a pedophile and one of the most serious pedophiles I've ever encountered."

Gauthe was on probation, but out of the spotlight for years after that charge. That was until we found him in La Marque where he's been a bus driver for a private company for years.

Ted Oberg: "The issue becomes how much people in Texas have a right to know who you are, what you've done and whether they should be afraid of you?"
Gil Gauthe: "There's no reason to be afraid."

Gauthe never did come out of that RV, but he invited us in without our camera. We talked for 90 minutes.

He told us a therapist once diagnosed him as a homosexual pedophile fixated on 11 to 13 year old boys, a condition that doesn't go away. He told us he still has feelings for young boys, but doesn't act on them.

Talking about his past, he said some of his young Louisiana victims actually wanted to have sex with him. And later he calmly told us a pedophile can "pretty much convince any child to have sex with them."

All that from a man living unregistered within a few blocks of a church, school and a daycare center.

Gauthe lists a vacant house as his address. It's right next to Sonia Palmer's home.

"It's just that the man who is next door, is the same man with this past," she said.

Gauthe actually lives in an RV a few blocks down the same street and claims he's not required to register as a sex offender. That's not the way DPS, the Galveston County Sheriff, the La Marque Police Department and the last DA to ever prosecute Gauthe see the law.

"He is living and breathing in the State of Texas, he absolutely should be registered and people should know where he is," Hon said.

Now he is.

After we started looking at his case, two police agencies started looking for him and last Wednesday Gauthe finally registered.

A change in Texas law required him to do it in 2005. He claimed not to know, but also claimed he tried to voluntary register in 2002. Now registered and back in the spotlight, Gauthe sounds like he sees himself as a bit of a victim.

Gil Gauthe: "The hard part is that anytime something like this happens, I have to start completely over."
Ted Oberg: "Should we have sympathy for that?"
Gauthe: "No sir. I think understanding."

When Gauthe moved to Texas in 1996 he wasn't required to register. His crimes pre-dated the registry, but Texas law changed in 2005 to close that loophole.

Gauthe won't face charges for not registering, but is required to check in every 90 days. I spoke to him again this afternoon. He is still in La Marque and doesn't know what he'll do now.

Gauthe was accused of molestation in the mid 80s. The church threw him out when the accusations were substantiated. Gauthe says church officials should've acted faster.

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