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Local News

Police still seeking McGrath phone, want to talk with witness

Rev. Richard McGrath
Rev. Richard McGrath

NEW LENOX – Police still are trying to get the cellphone that led to the Rev. Richard McGrath’s sudden retirement as president at Providence Catholic High School.

New Lenox Police Chief Bob Sterba said Tuesday that police have yet to get the phone or talk to the person who made the initial report of what has been characterized as “potentially inappropriate material.”

“Somebody saw something that was alarming enough to notify school authorities. School authorities notified us,” Sterba said. “At this time, that person is unwilling to speak to us.”

McGrath, who headed Providence Catholic as principal and then president for 32 years, suddenly retired on Dec. 22.

Providence and the Diocese of Joliet announced the retirement that day and said it was “effective immediately.”

“This action is in response to an investigation by civil authorities of an allegation of potentially inappropriate material on his mobile device,” the diocese said a written statement.

The New Lenox Police Department is the only agency investigating the situation, Sterba said.

Police do not have the phone or enough evidence to get a search warrant to obtain it, he said.

“That’s an issue we’re still working on,” Sterba said.

The phone belongs either to Providence Catholic or the Diocese of Joliet, he said.

Sterba described Providence Catholic as being “as cooperative as they can be at this point.”

“I believe they came forward as quickly as they could have,” he said. “They’re the ones who brought it to our attention.”

Providence Catholic spokeswoman Kathleen Kennedy said Tuesday that she could not answer questions about the phone’s ownership or its whereabouts.

Diocese of Joliet spokesman Ed Flavin could not be reached for comment.

McGrath also could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He declined to discuss the investigation when reached on Dec. 22. Even without the cellphone or accessibility to the firsthand witness, Sterba would not characterize the investigation as being at a standstill. But he did agree that it was a “fair characterization” to say police are not close to bringing charges.

“One of the reasons for that,” he said, “is we want to be thorough, and we want to be fair to all parties, including Father McGrath, and we want to be right.”

Sterba would not comment on whether any other witnesses have come forward regarding the cellphone or any other incidents involving McGrath.

“If that happens, we can ensure all of a thorough investigation,” he said.

McGrath has moved out of the friary at Providence Catholic. Sterba said he does not know where McGrath is, but he is not obligated to report his whereabouts to police.

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