ALFRED, Maine — The jury trial of a former Catholic priest from Boston, Massachusetts, accused of sexually abusing young boys at a Kennebunkport campground three decades ago began Monday morning in York County Superior Court, as one victim took the stand visibly shaking as he testified about sexual acts that took place “pretty much every time” they were in Maine.
Ronald Paquin, 76, who served as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was indicted on 31 counts of sexual misconduct in February 2017 stemming from an investigation by the Kennebunkport Police Department after one of the victims contacted them.
One of Paquin’s alleged victims testified Monday that he met the former priest as a child when he attended Catholic education classes and served as an altar boy at the Haverhill church.
He said Paquin befriended him, “trying to be a pal. Trying to make you feel more grown up than you actually were. Being an adult now, I see how horrible that was.”
He said Paquin used his parent’s divorce to “drive a wedge” and make him think that he was not loved.
“He said nobody would care for me as he does. I grew up in a divorced home and I didn’t realize how toxic it was, and he used it as a wedge,” he said.
The man said Paquin took him out to dinner frequently and began telling lewd jokes that were sexual in nature. The victim testified that the behavior quickly escalated into sexual acts, which continued during trips to Florida, Hawaii, Hyannis, Massachusetts and Kennebunkport, Maine.
The defrocked priest was a central figure in the Boston archdiocese’s sex abuse scandal, and pleaded guilty to raping an altar boy in 2002. He served more than a decade in a Massachusetts prison and was released in 2015.
Paquin was taken into custody on the Maine charges by U.S. Marshals at a homeless shelter in Boston in February 2017. He has been held at the York County Jail since his arrest.
He entered the courtroom Monday using a cane, and defense attorneys say he is in frail health.
In her opening statement to the jury, defense attorney Valerie Randall said it was easy to get caught up in the “ick factor” of the case, and cautioned the jury to remember that Paquin is innocent until proven guilty.
Prosecutors said Paquin had a fifth wheel seasonal camper at Salty Acres Campground in Kennebunkport where he would repeatedly abuse the victims. They said he also stayed at the Beachwood Resort across Route 9 from the campground on several occasions during the off-season.
Michael Spang and Tricia Renell worked for their parents who owned both the campground and resort and testified Monday that they saw Paquin with teenage boys at his seasonal campsite frequently during the summers in the late 1980s.
Both Renell and Spang testified that they never saw anything unusual or suspect in Paquin’s demeanor and described him as “always pleasant.”
Paquin’s two alleged victims in the indictments were 11 and 14 years old at the time of the alleged abuse, which took place between 1985 and 1988 at the two seasonal locations.
The alleged victim who testified Monday said he and Paquin would drive to Maine almost every weekend in the summer.
The trial was slated to resume Tuesday morning, when a second victim was scheduled to testify.
Keith Townsend, of Seabrook, New Hampshire, previously told Seacoast Media Group that he was one of Paquin’s victims, and that he reported the abuse that he says happened to him between the ages of 8 and 13 to the Kennebunkport Police Department. Townsend said he reached out to police after Paquin was released from prison, leading to the indictments. Townsend said he was one of about 10 other boys abused during trips to the Kennebunkport campground.
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