BEAUFORT, SC (Oct. 23, 2018) – A former Catholic priest has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for repeated sexual assaults in the 1970s and 1980s against two boys enrolled in his church’s school in Savannah.
Wayland Yoder Brown, 76, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Beaufort County General Sessions Court to nine charges of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
“I do not expect the defendant to live through that sentence, but I think it is appropriate that he spend the rest of his life in the S.C. Department of Corrections,” said 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone, who prosecuted the case. “What you saw during today’s proceedings is not only someone who violated the trust of children but who violated their faith, as well.”
The victims said Brown wore his priest’s collar during the assaults and prayed the rosary afterward.
The assaults were reported to law enforcement about two decades after they occurred, after one of the victims underwent counseling for the trauma Brown inflicted.
Both victims were students at St. James Catholic School in Savannah. They ranged in age from 11 to 13 at the time of their assaults. The incidents for which Brown was charged took place at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Hardeeville, the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County and a train depot in Hardeeville in Jasper County between 1978 and 1988.
One of the two victims told authorities that Brown assaulted him in Georgia, as well. Savannah-area prosecutors were unable to bring charges related to those allegations because Georgia’s statute of limitations has expired.
However, South Carolina has no statute of limitations for felonies.
The Jasper County charges stemmed from a 14-month investigation involving law-enforcement agencies in both states, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and the Chatham County District Attorney’s Office.
“These cases were from the 1970s and 1980s, so going back and finding information and finding evidence” was difficult, said Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap. “(Solicitor Stone) picked it up, and he went with it
“It’s justice, finally, for these victims.”
Heap grew up in the Savannah area and attended St. James. She asked anyone with information about other, similar crimes to contact her office’s hotline, 912-652-8080.
Brown was ordained in the Diocese of Savannah in July 1977 and served as associate pastor at St. James Catholic Church and school in the mid-1970s. The Vatican dismissed Brown from the priesthood in December 2004, after he pleaded guilty in Maryland to performing sex acts on a teenage boy and his younger brother between 1974 and 1977.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but released after five years for good behavior. Brown was residing in Maryland when he was arrested on the South Carolina charges in August 2017. He pled guilty Tuesday to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and six counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. He is required to cooperate with authorities should they investigate any similar crimes.
Kimberly Smith of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Career Criminal Unit assisted Stone in the prosecution. She is a member of the office’s Career Criminal Unit, which prosecutes the circuit’s most violent and habitual offenders. The Career Criminal Unit has secured convictions against 313 of 325 defendants it has prosecuted since its formation in 2008.
Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Hood handed down the sentence Tuesday.