Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Father James Porter


Over the next thirteen months, Porter molested at least two dozen children from St. Phillips parish. On one occasion, following a road trip to Bloomington, Minnesota, for a basketball game, Porter spent the night assaulting his young companions, one after another, at a Hastings farmhouse. As in prior parishes, some victims were molested on a weekly basis, over several months, while others suffered only one or two attacks.

Two male victims, Daniel Down and James Grimm, finally found the courage to accuse Father Porter. Their fathers confronted Bemidji church leaders in September 1970, demanding that Porter be removed from the parish at once. Unlike the dozens of complaints in Massachusetts, their protest got instant results. Porter was gone the next day - back to the Paraclete order in New Mexico, for more prayers, pottery classes, and nature walks. He also received some stern, unexpected advice. For the first time in a decade of non-stop criminal activity, Porters therapist - Father Fred Bennett - finally suggested that he leave the priesthood.

Still, it was only a suggestion, and no one pressed the matter. Porter waited three more years before drafting a letter to Pope Paul VI, requesting a formal release from his vows. The letter touched briefly on Porters transgressions, including a frank admission that he used to hide behind a Roman collar, thinking that it would be a shield for me. The Vatican accepted Porters judgment of himself and granted his wish, discharging him as a priest on January 5, 1974.

Release from his vows brought Porter no relief from his problems, however. Settled in Oakdale, Minnesota, he continued molesting neighborhood boys over the next six years. The pattern of predation was briefly interrupted in 1976, by Porters marriage at the Church of St. Casimir, in St. Paul, but the change in life style made no lasting difference. The ex-priest functioned normally with wife Verlyne, siring four children, but his pedophilia was irrepressible. In 1984 Porter molested a teenage girl hired to baby-sit for his children. Three years later he assaulted the girls sister, on another babysitting assignment.

No criminal charges were filed at the time, but an invisible noose was closing around one of Americas most prolific child molesters. Porter didnt know it yet, but he was running out of time.