Catholic priest Jerry Repola was named as a child sex abuser in a new report and was a counselor at a church camp in 1958 when a 10-year-old deaf boy disappeared
A Catholic priest who was named as a child sex abuser in a new report was a counselor at a church camp in 1958 when a 10-year-old deaf boy disappeared before his skeletal remains were discovered a year later.
Jerry Repola worked at the Catholic Camp St. Malo in Colorado in August 1958, when Bobby Bizup vanished in mysterious circumstances after a day of fishing in the mountains.
Bones belonging to the little boy were found in July 1959 in a spot that had been extensively searched by a 500-strong crew, the Colorado Civil Air Patrol and an Indian tracker the year before.
It has now been revealed that Repola, who died in March 1971 from a long illness, sexually abused a teenage boy when he was a parish priest in Grand Junction in 1967 and authorities believe the boy could be one of several victims.
Repola is the third priest who was working at the camp when Bobby’s died who is now known to have sexually abused children via their positions in the Catholic church, reported 9 News.
One of the others, Harold Robert White, has been described as ‘the most prolific known clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history’, while the other, Neil Hewitt, was one of the last to see Bobby alive and the person who found his remains the year after he vanished.
The three priests all had long ties to the camp, working there as counselors for many years, and investigators have now launched a new probe into the little boy’s disappearance and death.
The revelation about Repola’s history of abuse comes in a new report released by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office Tuesday, where he was one of nine Catholic priests identified as having sexually abused children dating back to the 1950s in Colorado.
The report is an update to the damning ongoing investigation by the Colorado Attorney General which in October 2019 named 43 Colorado priests who sexually abused at least 166 children between 1950 and 2019 and exposed systemic cover-ups of allegations within the church.
To date, the probe, which was agreed to by the church and the state in 2019, has uncovered the abuse of at least 212 children by 52 priests in Colorado over a 70-year period.
Repola sexually abused a boy when working as a priest at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Grand Junction, according to the new report from Attorney General Phil Weiser’s Office.
He trained to be a priest at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver from 1956 before being ordained in Walsenburg in 1964.
Bobby Bizup vanished in mysterious circumstances after a day of fishing in the mountains while attending Camp St. Malo in Colorado in August 1958
Bones belonging to the little boy (pictured with his family) were found in July 1959 in a spot that had been extensively searched the year before
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office released a new report Tuesday, naming nine more Catholic priests who sexually abused children in Colorado. One of the names was Repola’s who was at the camp when Bobby vanished
It was during his training that he worked as a camp counselor over three summers at Camp St. Malo in Rocky Mountain National Park.
After he was ordained he was assigned to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Junta for a year before being transferred to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Grand Junction in 1965.
It was here that Repola sexually abused a teenage boy in 1967, the report reveals.
Church records reveal the priest was then moved around, first being removed from parish ministry and given a chaplaincy in Alamosa in 1968 and later being placed on a leave of absence from the Pueblo Diocese and sent for ‘professional counseling’, the report shows.
Repola became ill in 1970 and died the following year.
The abuse of the teenage boy has been substantiated and authorities believe there could be other victims.
‘Repola’s record as a diocesan priest and his pattern of assignments indicate that the Pueblo Diocese may have been aware that he engaged in such behavior,’ former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer writes in the report.
‘The short duration of his assignments, the geographic scope of his assignments, his leave of absence, the requirement that he participate in professional counseling, and the Pueblo Diocese’s silence about the reasons for any of these events indicate that the Pueblo Diocese may have known Repola engaged in the sexual abuse of children.
This makes Repola the third priest working at the camp the summer of Bobby’s death now known to have sexually abused children. Camp St Malo above
Investigators have now launched a new probe into the little boy’s disappearance at the camp more than six decades on
‘We reach that conclusion having seen in our investigations numerous child sex-abuser priests in Colorado with a similar pattern of assignments and employment actions.’
Two other priests also working at Camp St. Malo in the summer of 1958 were previously named in the 2019 review to have sexually abused children.
Harold Robert White, who died in 2006, sexually abused at least 70 children during his two decades as a priest and is described in the report as ‘the most prolific known clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history’.
Neil Hewitt, who left the priesthood in 1980, married and is now living in Arizona, abused at least nine children over an 18-year period.
Hewitt admitted to 9 News that he molested at least two named victims including Stuart Saucke, who later committed suicide and left behind a note detailing the abuse at the hands of the priest.
Hewitt was also the person who found Bobby’s remains in 1959.
He insisted to 9 News last year he ‘did not do anything’ to the 10-year-old boy but admitted he was one of the last to see him alive after he told him he couldn’t have any ‘more candy’ so ‘he took off.’
Aside from the three abusers present at the time of Bobby’s death, the camp’s founder Joseph J. Bosetti was also found to have molested a teenage boy in 1949 and 1950.
Mark Haas, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Denver, which operated Camp St. Malo, told 9News that they had no further information to provide about Bobby’s disappearance.
Haas said: ‘This tragic situation occurred 62 years ago and no one currently working for the Archdiocese has any direct knowledge of it. We are not in a position to respond to speculation about something that happened six decades ago.’
Harold Robert White (left) has been described as ‘the most prolific known clergy child sex abuser in Colorado history’ while Neil Hewitt (right) was one of the last to see Bobby alive and found his remains. Both priests were also at the camp when Bobby disappeared
The Catholic summer camp, which closed in the 1980s, welcomed young schoolboys for outdoor recreation including swimming, shooting, hiking and camping.
In the summer of 1958, Bobby, an only child and born almost completely deaf, attended the camp.
He was last seen fishing for trout at Cabin Creek close to the camp property on August 15 – his fifth week-long visit to the camp.
The 10-year-old never made it back to the camp at the curfew of 6 p.m. and a search was launched.
The search grew to more than 500 people, with the boy’s parents, Airmen from Lowry, volunteers from the Colorado Civil Air Patrol, search and rescue squads, an Indian tracker and bloodhounds from California drafted in to comb the area and drain water sources.
A sighting of a boy matching his description in nearby Estes Park diverted police there but turned out to be another boy.
The search was called off 10 days later and his disappearance and death ruled an accident.
It was accepted that he had wandered off, gotten lost and succumbed to the elements.
The next year and five days into his fourth summer at the camp, Hewitt found a piece of clothing and a bone as he led a hike up Mount Meeker.
A new search began and more bones, clothing and Bobby’s hearing aid battery were all discovered within a day.
Bobby’s cause of death was ruled ‘probably from exhaustion and exposure’ and was classed an accident and his parents have since died. An investigation has now been launched
His cause of death was ruled ‘probably from exhaustion and exposure’ and was classed an accident.
No further investigation was made and the little boy’s parents have since died.
But in November this year, following the report naming Hewitt and White as sexual abusers and seven decades on from his death, the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch opened an investigation into his disappearance and death.
Harriet Dudich, Bobby’s cousin and one of his closest surviving relatives, told 9 News the family had ‘believed all these years’ his death was an accident but said it was ‘real good news’ it was now being investigated further.
The presence of the three priests named as sexual abusers at the camp is expected to be part of the investigation, 9 News reported.
In 2019, the Colorado Attorney General and the Archdiocese of Denver, the Diocese of Colorado Springs and the Diocese of Pueblo reached an agreement giving the state access to seven decades of church records.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Junta where Repola worked before being transferred to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Grand Junction in 1965. It was at the latter that Repola sexually abused a teenage boy in 1967, authorities reveal
The ongoing investigation, led by former US Attorney Troyer, has so far exposed decades of abuse of children by priests and named 52 priests where the allegations of abuse have been substantiated.
The first report, released in October 2019, revealed at least 166 children were sexually abused by 43 Catholic priests in Colorado dating back to 1950.
It also revealed the church had willfully covered up allegations of abuse and failed to report them to police, with over half of the victims abused after the state’s three dioceses already knew the priests were abusers.
After the first report’s release last October, another 46 victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Colorado Catholic priests have come forward and nine more priests have been identified as abusers.
They are: Father Kenneth Funk, Father Daniel Kelleher, Father James Moreno, Father Gregory Smith, and Father Charles Woodrich of the Denver Archdiocese and Repola, Monsignor Marvin Kapushion, Father Carlos Trujillo and Father Joseph Walsh of the Pueblo Diocese.
The report found that most of the children were aged 10 to 14 at the time of the abuse.