- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

Those who remember Monsignor Thomas Wells as a soul of "deep compassion" are furious his reputation is being murdered by accusations he made sexual advances toward the homeless man on trial for killing him.
"My first reaction was, can someone burn in hell twice?" said Debbie Davidson, who lives near the Germantown church where Monsignor Wells ministered. "If its a lie on top of a murder, he took his life away as well as his good name."
Robert Paul Lucas told a Montgomery County jury Wednesday that he stabbed the priest June 8 after Monsignor Wells pressed him for sexual acts. Church employees found the monsignors body in his blood-spattered residence at Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church the next morning.
Last night, jurors began deliberating Lucas guilt. He does not face the death penalty; states attorneys did not seek it because the Catholic Church and Monsignor Wells family oppose capital punishment, as did Monsignor Wells himself.
Considering what happened to the priest and the defenses accusations, some people say, thats unfortunate.
"Our reaction was that its a shame the monsignor was against the death penalty," said nearby resident Kathy Yurkunas, 35. "Im from Texas. We believe some people just need killing."
She believes Lucas would say anything to lessen the punishment awaiting him.
The jury must decide whether Lucas, 26, is guilty of manslaughter or murder. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
"This is not murder. This is manslaughter," said Assistant Public Defender Mary Siegfried, who acknowledged Lucas was guilty of fourth-degree burglary the morning of the killing.
Ms. Siegfried contended that Father Wells was stabbed and cut nine times after he tried to persuade and wrestle Lucas into homosexual acts.
But States Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said that defense was made up to avoid conviction for murder.
"He wants you to murder monsignor again by having you agree with the defendants assassination of monsignors reputation and character," Mr. Gansler told the jury.
Many who worshipped at Mother Seton echoed that sentiment yesterday.
"Its really disgusting and despicable," said parishioner Debbie Sharpe, 29. "Its terrible what theyre doing to his reputation."
She complained the defense takes unfair advantage of the few cases in which priests have exhibited less than godly behavior.
Linda Lacey, a neighbor of the parish, called Lucas claims "bogus."
"Thats the normal defense. Its a stereotype about Catholic priests," Ms. Lacey said.
The prosecutors at Lucas trial asserted yesterday the only logical reason for Lucas to enter the rectory that night was to steal. They contended that Monsignor Wells was asleep and was killed after he was awakened when Lucas entered the bedroom.
They emphasized that Lucas admitted taking more than $800, the priests wristwatch, two religious coins and a T-shirt to replace Lucas own bloody Harley-Davidson shirt.
Lucas waited for almost a year before making up the story about a sexual attack in "a desperate attempt to walk away from first-degree murder," said Deputy States Attorney Katherine Winfree.
Lucas testified that he was drunk that night, wet his pants and was looking for a place to get cleaned up and sleep when he broke a window to enter the rectory. He said a man he presumed was a caretaker called to him, invited him upstairs, began talking to him about his past life and got him to kneel to pray.
The man then pressed him into a sexual act, Lucas said. Lucas said he fell asleep and wanted to leave when he awoke, but the man grabbed his arm. A fight ensued during which Lucas said he got his knife and cut and stabbed the man.
"Bobby told you what happened and theres nothing to contradict that," Ms. Siegfried said.
As Lucas had testified, Ms. Siegfried said the incident humiliated, angered and shamed Lucas, especially after he learned the next day that the victim was a priest.
Lucas hinted to a friend about the sexual incident during a visit in county jail June 17, saying, "That man is not what people think he is."
Members of the Archdiocese of Washington said yesterday they are shocked and saddened by Lucas accusations.
Many of his colleagues nicknamed the monsignor "Teflon Tom" as a result.
"They could throw things at the monsignor and nothing will stick," said the Rev. Ronald Potts, who heads Mother Seton parish. "This is not the Monsignor Wells we knew and loved. If only everyone knew how ridiculous these allegations are."
The Rev. Thomas Kalita, pastor of St. Peters Catholic Church and dean of the Upper Montgomery County parishes, said the monsignor never had any suspicions cast against him in the 20-some years the two men had known each other.
"Monsignor Wells was loved by his parishioners, young and old," Father Kalita said.
"In death, when a man doesnt have an opportunity to defend himself, someone needs to speak up for him," Father Kalita said.
As a result, the Archdiocese has issued a statement in the monsignors defense.
"For all of us who knew and loved Monsignor Wells, the trial now under way is an especially difficult and painful reminder of his violent death," the statement reads.


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