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Hanna Boys Center director John Crews retires from ministry

John Crews shown at the Hanna Boys Center in 2012.

PD FILE, 2012
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 8:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 1:24 p.m.

The Rev. John Crews, the director of Hanna Boys Center in Sonoma Valley who resigned last week in the wake of an allegation of sexual misconduct more than 40 years ago, has retired from the Catholic Church ministry and now is out of the area, at least temporarily.

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John Crews shown at the Hanna Boys Center in 2012.

PD FILE, 2012

Bishop Robert Vasa of the Santa Rosa Diocese disclosed Thursday that Crews, 67, no longer is an active priest and that he is away caring for his ailing mother. Vasa declined to provide additional information on Crews' whereabouts.

During Crews' 29 years at the helm of the Hanna Boys Center, the campus burnished its reputation in the Bay Area as a respected residential complex providing education and guidance for thousands of at-risk teen-age boys. It also is in the midst of a major funding campaign and campus expansion.

His supporters are expressing dismay and disbelief at his sudden fall, an event seemingly triggered from beyond the grave.

Crews resigned less than a week after a caller told Sebastopol police and then diocese officials that a man now dead had recounted that he was a youth in 1971 when Crews had engaged him in sexual misconduct at a Sebastopol church. Crews, ordained in 1971, served at St. Sebastians Church in Sebastopol and St. Josephs Church in Cotati prior to taking over at the Hanna Center in 1984.

Neither the diocese nor Sebastopol police have shed light on the alleged victim, the person who reported the allegation or any details about the case.

Crews has been unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, an inquiry of sorts has been launched by authorities, although Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver said Thursday there are limited options for pursuing a 42-year-old incident.

Weaver said he could not disclose the name of the alleged perpetrator or victim, since no arrest has been made and the victim is "not available" to police. But his case appears nearly identical to the reports involving Crews.

Weaver said his department first heard of the sex assault case Feb. 1 from a caller the chief would not identify. He described the caller's account as "second-hand" information because the caller said the victim had "confided in me" regarding the alleged assault. Vasa said Wednesday the alleged victim was deceased.

The caller stated that the alleged perpetrator was "still working in a capacity" that concerned the caller, who felt that "others might be vulnerable," Weaver said.

Police subsequently received a call from a church official who wanted to make sure police knew of the allegation, Weaver said.

The chief said he erred Wednesday when he told a reporter that one of his officers had discussed the case with the District Attorney's Office.

Weaver said he subsequently learned that a sergeant had advised investigating officer Dennis Colt-hurst to contact Sonoma County Sheriff's Office sex crimes investigators to determine if they were handling a related investigation or had advice on how to proceed.

Colthurst and a sheriff's detective talked Wednesday, and on Thursday police were sending their information to the detective, Weaver said.

Sheriff's Sgt. Ruben Martinez of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault unit did not return a phone call Thursday.

The case remains open, Weaver said, but police are not seeking witnesses "because there aren't any," and officers cannot talk to the victim because he is "no longer available to us."

He also said the statute of limitations has expired, preventing any potential prosecution.

"Our ability to follow up is very limited," Weaver said.

His officers could interview the alleged perpetrator, he said, after they are assured that no other agency is pursuing the case.

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