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Diocese names retired priest at center of closed investigation

Posted at 9:03 PM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 23:38:37-04

In 2016, a Lafayette man went to Louisiana State Police alleging sexual misconduct by Fr. Albert Gayle Nunez when he was a child. The man says he came forward decades later, only after hearing about another man who was allegedly abused by Nunez as a child. The case was eventually closed and the church never disclosed the investigation until naming Fr. Nunez in a statement released Friday night.

The accusation

The accuser tells KATC the alleged misconduct happened while Fr. Nunez was a priest at Our Lady of Sacred Heart in Church Point in the 1970’s. The accuser says he was 12 to 14 years old. KATC does not identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct.

Albert Nunez

The accuser, now 57, says the priest was close to his family and invited him to spend the night at the rectory.

“I thought it was real strange that we were sleeping in the same bed. He had on a white t-shirt and plaid boxers,” he said. “We went to sleep, and I woke up and he had me spooned on my side. He was pressed up against me and he had his feet locked into my ankles.”

The man says when he woke up, he slipped away into the bathroom where he spent the rest of the night. He says he doesn’t remember being molested, but can’t be certain. “I don’t know what happened when I was sleeping. As a kid I would sleep pretty hard.”

The accuser tells KATC he only spent the one night at the rectory with Fr. Nunez, and he told his mother about what had happened. He remembers his mother telling him “you know if your dad hears about this they’ll have a dead priest in Church Point.”

“I didn’t want to be this one guy making an accusation”

The alleged accuser says he came forward to authorities in 2016 because he heard about another man from Church Point who told friends he was abused by Nunez.

“The other accuser didn’t want to cooperate with the state police investigation,” he said. “I didn’t want to be this one guy making an accusation. I didn’t follow through with the report because I was the only one.”

The accuser says he did not report the allegations to the diocese. “Coming forward is a tough thing to do,” he said.

Diocese names Fr. Nunez

The Diocese of Lafayette issued a statement on the case Friday night and named Fr. Nunez. The diocese cited “information released by Louisiana State Police” that was previously requested. This comes the same week state police sent Nunez’s case files to a reporter at The Advocate, following a public records request. Those records were not immediately available Friday night.

According to the statement, the diocese was approached by State Police in July 2016.

“The Diocese cooperated fully with the investigation and provided dates and places of assignments, and even provided names of persons who worked closely with Father Nunez during this period.  The Diocese was asked specifically by the State Police not to inform Father Nunez about the allegations or take any action regarding the matter since they intended to interview Father Nunez before he knew about the claims.  The State Police kept the Diocese up-to-date regarding the status of the investigation. Father Nunez was not informed about the investigation. The investigation continued on for several months. In due course, the State Police informed the Diocese that claimants refused to cooperate and gave no details regarding what may have occurred. The Diocese was eventually informed that the investigation had been administratively closed by the State Police.  The Diocese then requested names of the alleged victims and identifying details but was informed by the State Police that they were unable to release this information. Nonetheless, the Diocese investigated the matter on the basis of the minimal information it had received but could not identify the victims.”

According to the church, members of clergy and individuals who worked closely with Nunez were questioned, but had no knowledge of anything to support claims of sexual abuse. Nunez was eventually informed of the allegations and “adamantly denied the claim.”

“Given a lack of information, the lack of the names of any claimants, the lack of any knowledge from those interviewed, the determination of the State Police to close their investigation, and, of importance, the presumption of innocence- no action was warranted,” the diocese said in a statement.

Nunez retired in 2018 and was not listed on KATC’s List nor the List put out by the diocese. His name did appear in a document filed by Tony Fontana in a civil suit against the diocese and Fr. Michael Guidry. The Requests for Production sought the personnel files for ten priests. At the time, KATC did not name Nunez and one other individual who was listed, because we could find no court documents supporting allegations. 

Church officials says Nunez now lives in a nursing home.