Coach accused of molesting students

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 7, 1999

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / August 7, 1999

NORCO – A coach and teacher at Sacred Heart Elementary School in Norco was arrested Thursday morning and charged with more than 400 counts of various sex crimes involving male juveniles.

“It’s a horrible thing,” St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg C. Champagnecommented at a press conference Thursday morning.

Brian Matherne, 44, 534 West B St., Norco, was booked after aninvestigation of allegations he had molested at least nine children ranging in age from 11 to 17 over the past 13 years.

Matherne was charged with 300 counts of molestation of a juvenile, 60 counts sexual battery, 30 counts of oral sexual battery, 10 counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile, nine counts of contributing to the delinquency of juveniles and two counts of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.

Matherne has denied all charges. He remains in custody with a $1.5 millionbond set by 29th Judicial District Judge Robert Chaisson.

Capt. Patrick Yoes reported that Matherne is on suicide watch at the jail.Thomas Finney, spokesman for the New Orleans Archdiocese, said the Archdiocese first learned of the allegations against Matherne in late February from the father of one alleged victim.

Matherne had been on the Sacred Heart faculty for 20 years, and no such claims had ever been made prior to this year, Finney said.

Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Aymond attempted to investigate the claim but was unable to interview the alleged victim. In April, a second complaintwas brought to the attention of the Archdiocese by a different person.

Because of the second allegation, Finney said, Matherne was placed on immediate suspension from his position at Sacred Heart. The sheriff’soffice was not notified, as no children had made complaints and the Archdiocese’s investigation was inconclusive since they did not interview the alleged victim.

“He’s still on suspension,” Finney said of Matherne. “We are deeplysaddened. He’s a very well-liked member of the faculty.”No one at Sacred Heart School would comment on the charges, instead referring all inquiries to the Archdiocese.

A crisis intervention team will work with faculty and students at the school, beginning next week when the teachers return from summer break.

Champagne said his office began an investigation when he was personally contacted in May by the father of the first victim, now 24. He assignedDetective Robert Dale and Sgt. Pat Boudoin to the case, and their effortsturned up eight others who said they were victims while ages 11 to 17.

All the known incidents took place in the past 13 years, with the latest three weeks ago, Champagne added.

The sheriff said the first victim was reported to be in psychiatric counseling when the alleged molestations, the last of which allegedly took place five or six years ago, were discussed.

The information was later relayed to the family, who contacted first the Archdiocese, then Champagne.

“It was a great surprise to me,” Champagne commented, “that they were befriended by a male role model figure, then take advantage of sexually.”The arrest warrant was signed by Judge Chaisson Wednesday, and Matherne was finally located in Hammond at 11 p.m. Wednesday, then returned toHahnville and booked at 3 a.m. Thursday.Search warrants were executed at the same time at both Matherne’s residence and an Airline Highway fishing camp he frequently used for overnight stays.

At both locations, various sexually explicit material was recovered, Champagne reported. None of the material examined so far includes any ofthe alleged victims.

“He was a very popular teacher and coach,” Champagne said, adding he strongly anticipates more victims will come forward and make their own allegations.

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