Former Roman Catholic priest Robert Burkholder was with defense attorney Dan Pagliarini in Judge Rey Graulty's courtroom yesterday for an extradition hearing that will send him to Michigan on a sexual-offense charges.

Ex-priest agrees
to face charges

The Makaha resident
allegedly molested a
13-year-old boy in 1986

By Debra Barayuga

A former Roman Catholic priest who worked in the Archdiocese of Detroit and now lives in Makaha has agreed to return to Michigan to face charges he sexually molested a 13-year-old boy 15 years ago.

But whether Robert Neil Burkholder, 83, who his doctor says suffers from dementia, is fit to stand trial will be up to a Michigan judge.

Burkholder was charged last month with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, punishable by a maximum 15 years in prison in Michigan. The charges stem from allegations made by the boy, now 32, accusing Burkholder of molesting him in 1986 while on a trip to Hawaii.

Burkholder has denied the charges against him, saying it was not him and that he has never taken anyone to Honolulu.

A frail and white-haired Burkholder appeared for his extradition hearing yesterday before Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty, his body trembling throughout the proceeding.

His attorney, Daniel Pagliarini, attributed the shakes to sitting in a cold cellblock. Burkholder was arrested and booked at the main police station at 8 a.m. yesterday and transferred to a Circuit Court cellblock for a couple hours before he was to appear.

During questioning by Graulty, Burkholder could give his name, years of schooling and date of birth. But he appeared confused when asked yesterday's date and replied with a tentative, "Twenty-second?"

Burkholder said no when asked whether he suffered from any mental disease, but Pagliarini said Burkholder's doctor and his Michigan attorney say Burkholder suffers from dementia.

Burkholder, however, has read the complaint and understands the nature of the charges, Pagliarini said.

Burkholder has consented to a hearing in Michigan to determine his mental status rather than have a hearing here, Pagliarini said.

The investigation revealed Burkholder apparently knew the boy since he was in the fifth grade and was an altar boy at St. Robert's Parish in Redford Township, said Deputy Prosecutor Russ Uehara. Burkholder apparently knew the boy's parents and would visit their home.

Burkholder is accused of using his influence and position of authority as a priest to persuade the boy's parents to allow the boy to accompany him on a six-week trip to Hawaii as an eighth-grade graduation present. The molestation allegedly occurred in Hawaii.

The alleged molestation is said to have occurred in 1986, but charges were allowed to be brought against Burkholder because he left Michigan in 1989 before the statute of limitations expired.

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael E. Duggan has characterized Burkholder as "one of the worst pedophiles" Michigan has ever had, alleging that he has admitted to molesting 23 boys dating back to 1949.

But because of his age, Burkholder was not considered a flight risk and was allowed to post $5,000 cash bail after the hearing and was released.

Burkholder never joined the Hawaii Diocese but he worked as a military chaplain under contract with the Army at Schofield Barracks in the early 1980s and has held masses at St. Elizabeth in Aiea.

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