March 22, 2006

Police: Ex-priest 'groomed' alleged victim


Newsday Staff Writer

March 22, 2006, 1:10 PM EST

A former priest who traveled from his Pennsylvania home with hopes of meeting a 14-year-old boy for sex at a local hotel spent the better part of a year "grooming" his alleged victim for the rendezvous, police said.

Nassau County Crimes Against Property Squad detectives reported that Thomas J. Bender, 72, of Macungie, Pa., had been communicating over the Internet since September 2004 with someone he thought was a 14-year-old boy. He was arrested yesterday after he came to Nassau to meet the boy for sex.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Det. Sgt. Lucy Graziano said that during the first few months of Bender's instant messages and e-mails with the boy, the former priest engaged in "grooming," nurturing him and building a relationship, before the messages turned sexual.

"We believe all of these conversations were for the defendant to meet with ... the 14-year-old boy," Graziano said.

Graziano said the "grooming" process is usually standard practice for pedophiles, with the general philosophy being "if he comes on strong right away, the child may get scared."

Posted by kshaw at March 22, 2006 04:02 PM