A police investigation was initiated into allegations that Catholic nuns tortured, sexually abused and even murdered children in a Vermont orphanage.
At a press conference in Burlington, Vermont on Monday, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the creation of a joint city task force and the law to investigate the San Jose orphanage.
The investigation follows the publication of a report by BuzzFeed News, which Weinberger called "a long and detailed story alleging decades of terrible abuses and violent crimes in that institution."
St. Joseph's, administered by the Sisters of Providence, based in Montreal, closed in 1974, and the accusations refer to the children who lived there from the 1930s to the 1970s.
& # 39; Murder is a crime without a prescription & # 39; said Weinberger. & # 39; If it is possible to make murder charges at this time we will do it, whether the perpetrators are alive or dead & # 39;
The Mayor of Burlington, Miro Weinberger (on the podium) announced the creation of a joint law and city task force to investigate the San José orphanage on Monday
The orphanage (above in undated photo) was built in the 19th century and was run under the supervision of the Sisters of Providence until it closed in 1974, when the orphanages passed unlucky.
The investigation comes when governments in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere deal with reports of horror from decades ago in Catholic orphanages.
The Catholic Bishop of Vermont, Christopher Coyne, said Sunday that the diocese will cooperate with the investigation.
Weinberger said the new task force would establish a system for survivors to contact him and encouraged survivors to contact the researchers.
The mayor said the investigation was important in light of the fact that "the justice system did not provide justice and closure for these survivors" when many former residents of the orphanage showed up in the 1990s.
Some of the nuns involved in the allegations are still alive, according to the BuzzFeed report.
The shocking report, a four-year research effort, included at least three reports of eyewitness killings, including a child thrown from a window, one drowned in a lake and another child who was suffocated.
The key witness Sally Dale was the institution's longest resident, growing up in St. Joseph's from 2 to 23 years old.
In 1996, Dale gave an ardent 19-hour deposition video that chronicled the alleged abuse, including the fact that he saw a nun throw a child to her death from a window.
An unidentified nun and the children are seen in this undated photo of the San José orphanage. New shocking claims about the institution have emerged after a new report
Dale said that around 1944, when he was about six years old, he was in the courtyard of the orphanage when he heard a sound of broken glass and saw a child coming out of a window with a nun leaning out and with arms outstretched.
"And he kind of hit and, I guess you'd call it, it was a rebound," Dale recalled. "And then he stayed still."
He remembered that the nun he was walking with just grabbed her by the ear and took her away, warning her that he had just imagined what he had seen.
On another occasion, Dale says he saw a nun throw a child into the nearby lake from a rowboat, a method that many other ancient residents remembered they used to teach them to swim.
When the boy disappeared under the waves, Dale asked a nun if he had died. "She said: 'Oh, do not worry, she's gone home forever,'" Dale recalled in the statement.
Dale, who is now dead, was one of the approximately 100 former St. Joseph residents who filed lawsuits against the Church in the 1990s, several years before the historic Boston Globe investigation broke the secret of child abuse in the institution.
A scene of life inside the San José orphanage is seen in this undated image. Horrible claims about life within the orphanage have resurfaced as similar claims have emerged around the world.
In the course of the litigation, another chilling accusation of the murder of a child came from the St. Joseph resident, Sherry Huestis.
Huestis recalled that sometimes, in the middle of the night, a kind dressmaker who worked at the orphanage, Eva, pulled her out of bed to keep them company while she walked through the doors.
One night, Huestis said, they heard terrible screams and ran towards the fountain, where they found two nuns fluttering over another nun lying on the bed with her legs spread, and a black baby emerging from between them.
The next day, the baby was in the nursery, where Huestis helped care for the younger children, when a nun came in, picked up a satin pillow and put it on the baby's face, he said. The baby stirred and then relaxed.
After Huestis told the orphanage social worker what she had seen, the daycare nun slapped her in the face.
Joseph Eskra, who spent time at St. Joseph's in the 1950s and early 1960s, recalled another child who did not show up at dinner one night. A search group left with lanterns to look for it, and found it near the swing, tied to a tree, frozen to death.
Other stories included horrible beatings, cruel punishments, such as being locked in small compartments and burned with matches, and sexual abuse by nuns.
The "survivors" of the orphanage formed a support group in the 1990s, which led many to file lawsuits. A shirt made by one of the group members is shown above
The case of Dale and the others were dismissed by a judge in the late 1990s. Other litigants settled with the Church for only $ 5,000. Just too much time had passed to try any of the claims, and many suspected that the memories were recovered decades after the fact had some merit.
Although the claims were never proven in court, the Buzzfeed investigation offers new corroborating evidence.
Dale's wildest claim – which her lawyer refused to force on her suit – was that a nun forced her to kiss the severely burned and disfigured body of a child who had been electrocuted while wearing a metal helmet, and noticed same. It would happen to her if she escaped.
However, a child in Burlington did die that way. On April 18, 1955, Joseph Millette, aged 13, was electrocuted at the Green Mountain Power transformer station while wearing a German military helmet from World War II, a memory of the war, according to a clipping from a contemporary newspaper.
Although Millette was not a resident of the orphanage, as Dale recalled, the details coincided remarkably with her story.
The abandoned chapel of the San José orphanage is seen above. Former residents say they were sexually abused by nuns and even witnessed the death of children
Graffiti written by former residents is seen in the grounds of the old orphanage
Other documents that emerged after the lawsuits shed a chilling light on the claims, BuzzFeed reported.
From 1935 until the orphanage was closed in 1974, five of the eight priests who oversaw St. Joseph's were at some point charged with sexual abuse, according to documents that later arose in other litigation.
Those five – Fathers Foster, Bresnehan, Devoy, Emile Savary and Donald LaRouche – ruled over St. Joseph's for 36 of the last 39 years of St. Joseph's existence.
The Diocese of Burlington, Catholic Charities of Vermont and the Sisters of Providence declined to comment on the allegations.
Monsignor John McDermott, of the Diocese of Burlington, offered BuzzFeed the following statement: "Please be aware that the Diocese of Burlington is seriously addressing allegations of child abuse and that procedures are in place to inform appropriate authorities. While it can not alter the past, the Diocese is doing everything possible to ensure that children are protected. "
The Church has long sold the land of the orphanage. The property was recently purchased by a developer, who converted it into luxury condominiums and renamed the Liberty House building.
The old orphanage has been converted into luxury condominiums and has changed the name of the House of Liberty