The Case

The Case

Case Timeline

Lee County Sheriff’s Office Case number: 15-039297

2010 – Marion and Dick McIntyre move to Fort Myers/Shell Point.

Marion becomes an active member of the St. Isabel parish, attending daily and weekend Masses, parish social functions, and volunteering as a Eucharistic Minister.  Dick and Marion McIntyre develop a close friendship with Fr. Christopher.  Marion McIntyre expresses their gratitude by giving Fr. Christopher groceries, clothing, and monetary gifts.

2014, January 29 – Dick McIntyre dies unexpectedly

Dick McIntyre died due to complications during a routine colonoscopy.

2014, February – Dick McIntyre’s funeral

At Dick McIntyre’s funeral, February 10, 2014, Fr. Christopher is confronted by Marion’s niece, Lindsay Gallagher, and Marion’s brother, Martin Knott.  Gallagher asks Fr. Christopher not to accept any more gifts from her aunt.  Fr. Christopher assured them that he would make every effort to discourage Marion McIntyre’s generosity.

2014, July – Bishop Dewane speaks with Martin Knott and receives two letters

The Public Record contains the Affidavit for Arrest Warrant, prepared by Detective Paulette Ehlers, of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO).  In this warrant, Ehlers states, “Knott also sent a letter to Reverend Frank Dweane [sic.], Bishop of Venice advising of his concerns, and requesting Reverend Frank Dweane [sic.] to speak with Senk, regarding Senk’s actions.  An additional letter was sent by Knott, after a conversation Knott had with Reverend Frank Dweane [sic.].  The letter (dated July 11, 2014) indicated Knott’s conversation with Reverend Frank Dweane [sic.] [who] spoke of Senk ignoring authority.”

It is at this time, twenty-seven months (over two years) prior to when Bishop Dewane actually placed Fr. Christopher on administrative leave, that Bishop Dewane was obligated by Canon Law to, at the very minimum, discuss the allegations against Fr. Christopher with him.  It was in July 2014 that Bishop Dewane should have conducted a diocesan investigation if he believed the allegations could possibly be true.

Canon Law is clear about what should have been done at this time.

Canon 1341: An ordinary [Bishop Dewane] is to take care to initiate a judicial or administrative process to impose or declare penalties only after he has ascertained that fraternal correction or rebuke or other means of pastoral solicitude cannot sufficiently repair the scandal, restore justice, reform the offender.”

Canon 1717 §1: Whenever an ordinary has knowledge, which at least seems true, of a delict, he is carefully to inquire personally or through another suitable person about the facts, circumstances, and imputability, unless such an inquiry seems entirely superfluous.”

If he believed Knott was telling the truth Bishop Dewane was obligated to place Fr. Christopher on administrative leave in 2014 to protect Marion McIntyre and the parishioners of St. Isabel.  In 2014, when Knott told Bishop Dewane both verbally and in two letters about his concerns “regarding Senk’s actions” and his sister, Bishop Dewane did not discuss the allegations with Fr. Christopher, did not conduct any investigation, and did not place Fr. Christopher on administrative leave.

2015, January 27 – Rodgers files report of stolen rings

On January 27, 2015, Mary Stuart Rodgers, Marion’s younger sister, filed a police report regarding Marion’s missing wedding rings.  She stated that Marion had the rings in her Health Park hospital room when she visited Marion one day, but on her next visit, after Fr. Christopher and his brother and sister-in-law had visited, the rings were missing.  Rodgers’ conclusion was that Fr. Christopher had stolen them.  This police report began the investigation that evolved into the case the Diocese of Venice is using against Fr. Christopher today.

2015, February 19 – Gallagher makes sworn statement

Public record contains Gallagher’s sworn statement given to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, in which Gallagher files a complaint against Fr. Christopher claiming that she is doing so in her “new role of power of attorney, and healthcare surrogate, for my aunt, Marion Knott McIntyre, who had been diagnosed with dementia in 2008”.

Related facts:  Public record contains two documents regarding Marion McIntyre’s Power of Attorney (POA).  The first, executed in 2005, names Gallagher as POA.  The second, executed in 2011, names Dick McIntyre as POA with Rodgers as an alternate if Dick McIntyre was unable.  The 2011 document, signed by Marion McIntyre and witnessed, also states that, “By this instrument I hereby revoke any power of attorney, durable or otherwise, that I may have executed prior to the date of this durable power of attorney.”

There are no further documents to show that Gallagher was ever reinstated as Marion McIntyre’s POA.

Also, although there are medical reports alluded to within the public record, the record does not contain any evidence to substantiate Gallagher’s claim that Marion McIntyre was “diagnosed with dementia in 2008” or at any other time before or after.

2015, February – Detective Ehlers interviews Fr. Christopher

In late February 2015 (no exact date provided) Detective Ehlers from the LCSO interviews Fr. Christopher in his office at St. Isabel Catholic Church.  Public record provides a twenty-page transcript of this meeting from beginning to end.  In this transcript, with the heading “Lee County Sheriff’s Office Sworn Statement of: Senk, Christopher” on each page, Ehlers never mentions that she is recording the conversation or that it is an official statement of any type.  In the course of the conversation, the rings were discussed and Ehlers, never mentioning Gallagher or Rodgers, states that she is talking to Fr. Christopher because of what Health Park staff told her.

Excerpt from interview transcript:

Ehlers: Okay, Um, yeah, ‘cause I, I know that when I spoke with a couple people at the hospital um, you know and they had suggested maybe she had given it [to] you know she’s a very generous person you know and you know they said well that she only had a couple visitors and your name came up that’s why I wanted to speak with you.  Um, you know and, and they said oh, well maybe the priest took it and I was like no, there’s gotta be a, a logical explanation because you know priest really don’t except [accept] gifts.  It’s not, not something that…

Fr. Christopher: Oh, well no, we do except [accept] gifts.  And of… because we’re… quite frankly in a parish situation we’re often given gifts but she did not give me a, a ring in… her ring in the hospital.

Ehlers: ‘Cause it would be… ‘cause I mean I think of it this way, like I’m a you know an officer so you know for us to take gifts and, and I just thought that there would be some reasonable explanation if anybody you know just said oh, well you know maybe and ah, that’s why I wanted to come and talk to you face to face.

End of excerpt

Knowing that he did not take or have Marion McIntyre’s rings; knowing he had done nothing wrong; and never hearing anything about any type of investigation, Fr. Christopher quickly dismissed and forgot all about the matter.  Fr. Christopher had no idea that for the next twenty months, the county, state, Gallagher, Rodgers, Knott, and Bishop Dewane would be communicating about the case that had now been started against him.

Related facts:  The public record provides the twenty-page transcript of Ehlers’ entire conversation with Fr. Christopher, but only provides a single paragraph in which Ehlers describes her conversation with Marion McIntyre.  Ehlers’ investigation, upon which the Diocese based all of its allegations against Fr. Christopher, did not include any interviews with any parishioners.

2015, March 2 – Rodgers finds the rings

Public record includes an email from Rodgers to Ehlers and Ehlers’ response.

From Rodgers 9:00 PM:

“Hi Paulette,  An extremely interesting development today!  My husband and I were at Marion’s apt at the Arbors, where she recently lived at Shell Point.  We went through all her belongings so I could get a game plan for packing her up today as I have the movers coming tomorrow.  I went through her jewelry drawer, all fake… And when I went to pack up her jewelry guess what mysteriously appeared in her drawer. You got it, the rings from the hospital… Explain that one to me.  I am 100 percent positive that those rings were not in the drawer when my husband and I were there on Friday.  Shell Point just seems to shrug their shoulders.  Obviously there is a snake in the grass there. Can you still pursue the investigations on elderly abuse?”

Ehlers’ response 9:54 PM:

“I am still working on this case regardless if the ring suddenly appeared.  I wonder if it’s because mention of the rings was my catch all conversation piece stirring things up???”

Fr. Christopher knows that he never took the rings.  The question is: Did anyone ever take the rings, or was the stolen ring story just a way to begin the investigation?

2015, March – Marion McIntyre is moved to Baltimore

With no mention to her visitors about any move being planned, Marion McIntyre is suddenly taken by her family to live in the Baltimore area, providing no forwarding address etc. to any of Marion’s friends in the St. Isabel parish.

2015, December – Gallagher convinces State Attorney to meet with Diocese

Lee County case notes written by Assistant State Attorney, Michael J. Brown, on December 17, 2015 state, “It is neither unusual nor criminal for individuals to give large sums of money to religious figures.  The only thing that might put this into the criminal realm would be if the church actively supported prosecution and was willing to indicate that the defendant had no authority in his position to take the money.  Essentially, the church, as an organization would have to call these actions fraud and/or exploitation.  Based on previous correspondences by the vt’s [victim’s] brother, it appears unlikely that the bishop of Venice would be willing to take that position.  I discussed all of this with the vt’s niece, Lindsay Gallagher.  She is currently the POA for the victim.  She clearly understands the state’s position and requested that before we deny the warrant that she be given the opportunity to discuss this with the church authorities.  She also wishes to come down here and meet in person.  I agreed to meet with her and give her the opportunity to discuss this with the church before I enter a denial of the warrant.  Relayed this conversation with JD and he approved of remains in this posture until the vt’s representatives have had an opportunity to meet with us and the church officials.”

2016, February 11 – Bishop Dewane meets with State Attorney

Assistant State Attorney, Michael J. Brown’s case notes written on February 11, 2016 state,”Met with Bishop Dewane and General Counsel of the Diocese of Venice on 2/8/16.  Apparently, Ms. Gallagher was able to persuade them that this is a case of exploitation.  I showed them evidence of the money being taken by Fr. Senk and the Bishop stated that there would not be any circumstances under which a priest would believe it was appropriate or allowed to accept the money.”

2016, April 21 – State Attorney does not pursue case

Lee County case notes written by Michael J. Brown on April 21, 2016 state, “Spoke to Ms. Gallagher.  Informed her that we don’t have enough evidence to pursue an exploitation charge.  She was disappointed, but understood.”

2016, October 28 – Bishop Dewane tells Fr. Christopher about case

Bishop Dewane calls Fr. Christopher to the chancery where he blindsides Fr. Christopher, telling him that there is a warrant for his arrest in a case brought against him for exploiting a vulnerable parishioner with dementia.  Although Bishop Dewane had known of the Knott family’s actions for the past twenty-seven months, and had communicated with both the Knott family and authorities  during that time, this was the first time Bishop Dewane told Fr. Christopher about their case against him.

2016, October 29 – Announcement and Press Release

At 5:03 PM, a press release is given to the local media.  At approximately 5:20 PM, Fr. John Ludden reads a letter from Bishop Dewane, from the lectern, to the people attending the five o’clock, vigil Mass, announcing that Fr. Christopher has been placed on administrative leave for exploiting a vulnerable parishioner.  At 6:00 PM, reporters ambush parishioners as they leave St. Isabel Church.  This is followed by numerous television news broadcasts publicly humiliating Fr. Christopher and putting St. Isabel Church in the public spotlight.

The actions taken by Bishop Dewane and the Diocese of Venice that day were undeniably contrary to Canon Law.

Canon 1717 §2. Care must be taken so that the good name of anyone is not endangered from this investigation.”

2016, November – Diocese of Venice begins an investigation

More than two and a half years after the Knott family contacted Bishop Dewane about their “concerns”, the Diocese of Venice begins their own investigation of the case against Fr. Christopher.  St. Isabel office staff members and a small group of parishioners selected by the diocese were interviewed.  Fr. Christopher is not interviewed or questioned by anyone.

2017, June – Seven months after Fr. Christopher is removed

Examining the public record, not only do the Parishioners For Justice ask why any of this has happened to Fr. Christopher, but why has this been dragged out for so long causing so much pain for both Fr. Christopher and the parishioners of St. Isabel Church.

“Canon 1718 §4. Before he makes a decision according to the norm of §1 * and in order to avoid useless trials, the ordinary is to examine carefully whether it is expedient for him or the investigator, with the consent of the parties, to resolve equitably the question of damages. 

*  (Canon 1718 §1. When it seems that sufficient evidence has been collected, the ordinary is to decide: 1/ whether a process to inflict or declare a penalty can be initiated; 2/ whether, attentive to Canon 1341, this is expedient; 3/ whether a judicial process must be used or, unless the law forbids it, whether the matter must proceed by way of extrajudicial decree.)”

Questions this timeline makes people ask:

Bishop Dewane has claimed in his disingenuous letters to the parish that he is doing what is right and necessary by investigating Fr. Christopher.  Has he done anything that was right?  Has he done anything that Canon Law stated was necessary to have prevented this atrocity of justice from its outset?

Why was Bishop Dewane so willing to believe the Knott family?

If Lindsay Gallagher lied twice in her sworn statement (re:POA and a diagnosis of dementia) why should anything else she has said be believed (the “stolen” rings)?

Why didn’t Bishop Dewane invite Fr. Christopher to discuss the Knott family’s concerns in 2014?

Why did Bishop Dewane wait 27 months before bringing the civil case to Fr. Christopher’s attention?

Why didn’t Bishop Dewane pause to get accurate and truthful information after the civil case was dismissed in April of 2016?

Was Bishop Dewane hoping that Fr. Christopher would be arrested and make his job easier?

Was Bishop Dewane hoping to use the dismissed civil case to make Fr. Christopher resign?

Why did Bishop Dewane communicate with the Knott family and the state authorities but never tell Fr. Christopher about the ongoing investigation?

Why did the Diocese give the media the press release humiliating Fr. Christopher and putting St. Isabel Church in the spotlight?

Why did the Diocese wait to conduct their own investigation until after Fr. Christopher was blindsided with the case, put on administrative leave, and humiliated in the media?

SOURCES:

Public record of Lee County Sheriff’s Office Case number: 15-039297 purchased by the Parishioners For Justice

“Case Notes for CF”, notes from Assistant State Attorney, Michael J. Brown, provided to the Parishioners For Justice upon request

Code of Canon Law – Intra Text

www.vatican.va > ENG1104 > _INDEX

February 23, 2017

Rev Senk:

Bob Kern handed me your e-mail dated 2/13/17 regarding your concerns relative to the investigation our agency conducted. As I explained to Bob, and as I suspect you understand, we at the Sheriff’s Office received a formal complaint from a family member, and we had an obligation to investigate same.

Upon review of the complaint and with consideration for the totality of circumstances, we determined that there was “probably cause” to believe that wrongdoing may have occurred. It is important to note that the “probable cause” standard for law enforcement is far lower than the burden of proof that the State needs to prosecute the case. That burden is referred to as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” At that point, the case is closed, and you are not guilty of anything. While being the subject of an investigation is never pleasant, neither is being accused of something without an investigation to either confirm the accusation(s) or render it unsubstantiated. In your case, our system of justice cleared you of the charge; thereby, closing the door on the accusations made.

As for the Catholic Church, Bishop Dwayne, and their handling of this issue, I have absolutely no control over that.

In summary, this was never anything personal; however, we have an obligation to investigate complaints and as we did in your case, double-check everything with the State Attorney before making an arrest. I am reminded of an old saying among carpenters, “measure twice and cut once.” Again, it seems our system cleared you, but the Church is exerting pressure as though you were found guilty. That is regrettable.

Sheriff Mike Scott

READ FULL LETTER

2 thoughts on “The Case”

  1. This is great information and source documentation. We really appreciate all the work the team is doing.

    Do we really know if Bishop Dewayne actually forwarded his complaint about Father Chris to Rome? He misled us once………

    Bob and Ruth Bringer

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

  2. I’ve read the timeline of events, and am appalled by the legal actions taken against Fr. Chris. To me, this is clearly a covert conspiracy based on hearsay and…….”They Got Nothing”. In reading this disgusting story of Ambush, I’m so sorry Father Chris is enduring this and hoping that he is faring well under the circumstances. I pray this case will be over soon and he is vindicated asap. A fine example of Florida’s corruption within the justice system, as well.

    Like

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