Morrier enters not guilty plea in court
STEUBENVILLE — The Franciscan friar under indictment for the alleged rape of a woman he counseled nearly a decade ago entered a “not guilty” plea Wednesday in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.
The Rev. David R. Morrier, who was indicted April 7 on charges of rape and two counts of sexual battery of a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, made his initial appearance in front of Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzeze.
Because he appeared for his arraignment voluntarily, Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said Morrier, 59, was entitled by statute to be released on his own recognizance. He is, however, prohibited from contacting his alleged victim.
The indictment alleged Morrier, ordained into the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance in 1997, used his position as the woman’s counselor to make her believe that engaging in sexual activity with him would help with the mental health issues that she was experiencing.
The alleged contact occurred between November 2010 and the spring of 2013.
The National Catholic Reporter had reported that in June 2014, after being relieved of his duties at the university, Morrier was named parochial vicar of St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Arlington, Texas, also run by TOR Franciscans. NCR also reported that, prior to the indictment being made public, Morrier’s profile on LinkedIn had listed his current employment as “assistant to Local Minister at TOR Franciscans” in Loretto.
The Third Order Regular Franciscans said Morrier was removed from public ministry in 2015 due to the allegations of sexual misconduct.
“He has not exercised public ministry since that time,” the statement from the TOR’s Province of the Minister Provincial said. “Being removed from public ministry means that he has not publicly celebrated Mass or any sacraments.”
The university, meanwhile, said it “has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities” investigating Morrier’s conduct prior to 2014 when he was removed from campus ministry. He was also prohibited from returning to campus, the university said.
The Diocese of Steubenville said it was made aware of the allegations “when the alleged victim presented the (information) to the diocese in November 2018,” even though Morrier was not a priest in the diocese. Diocesan officials said they “began an immediate preliminary investigation” with the alleged victim and officers with the Steubenville Police Department, and submitted a report to the minister general of the TOR’s in Rome as well as to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Holy See on Dec. 11, 2018. They said the diocese has continued to work with police and has provided updates to the Vatican.
Hanlin said it had been “a long-term investigation, going on over a year” and said the illicit contact allegedly began when the female was an undergraduate.
* Shawn Deveron Brookins, 36, charged with the 2019 murder of 24-year-old William Ross of Steubenville, was not present for arraignment. Hanlin said Brookins, formerly of Trotwood, is currently being held in the Northern Regional Jail, Moundsville, on a federal weapons violation.
* Richard E. McCartney, 37 Hunter Drive, Wellsburg, charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and operating a vehicle under the influence with a specification, as well as misdemeanor driving under suspension. He entered a plea of not guilty, $25,000 bond continued.
* Daniel Russell Adams, 25, 1096 Claire St., Steubenville, charged with sexual battery. He entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, was released on his own recognizance and ordered not to have contact with his alleged victim, a 23-year-old woman.
* Johntrell R. Terry, 26, 107 Frank St., Mingo Junction, charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor with a specification, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and failure to notify authorities of a change of address. Terry entered a plea of not guilty, bond was set at $50,000 and he was ordered not to have contact with the alleged victim, a 13-year-old girl.
* John R. Lyle, 46, 807 Louise St., East Liverpool, charged with tampering with evidence and two counts of felonious assault after allegedly stabbing a man, causing him to be flown by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital. Lyle entered a plea of not guilty, bond was set at $250,000 and a “no contact” order was issued.
* Kenneth A. Byrley, 47, 117 County Road 47, Toronto, charged with domestic violence with a specification (three prior domestic violence convictions) and misdemeanor assault. Byrley entered a not guilty plea, bond was set at $100,000 and a no contact order issued.
* Matthew Wilson, 34, 2813 Sunset Blvd., Steubenville, charged with two counts of aggravated burglary as well as burglary and tampering with evidence. He entered a not guilty plea, bond was set at $300,000 and a “no contact” order issued.
* Brandon Lee Billingsley, 39, 593 Warren Township Road 155, Rayland, charged with receiving stolen property. Billingsley entered a not guilty plea and bond was set at $8,000.
Capias warrants were issued for the arrest of:
* Cody Bellum, 25, 324 Fernwood Road, Wintersville, indicted on a charge of illegally conveying a prohibited substance, heroin, into the Jefferson County Correctional Center.
* Rhys Wade Williams, 6 Morningside Drive, Wintersville, indicted on a charge of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer, a felony, and a misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle under the influence.
* Jacob Ford DiLoreto, 26, 1549 State Route 152, Smithfield, indicted on a charge of possession of drugs.
* Brandon Wayne McDaniel, 49, 136 Emma Ave., Tuscarawas, Ohio, indicted on a charge of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer.