1/13/13 Exerpt from the New Book: SMOTHERED....by George Barilla as told to Jean Barilla
st. colemans and Gilbert’s story.
Presentation sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary ran st. colmans home in Watervliet, New York, just 137 miles north of st. agnes in Sparkill, New York. They should have been “sister convents” like “sister cities” because they abused children in the same way. The website, www.justiceforgilbert.com tells the story of an eight year old boy Gilbert Bonneau who, like Rocco, was suffocated. Gilbert was suffocated by a nun straddling him and placing a pillow over his head. This put him in a coma – just like Rocco was put in a coma -- but Gilbert died. Rocco got the same suffocation treatment – a pillow over his head and while he was near death, he didn’t die. Gilbert can’t tell what happened but Rocco survived to expose the church and make sure that the tragic stories of the victims – dead and alive are told. Rocco’s goal is that all the perpetrators are stopped from doing further harm against children and are punished like the criminals they are.
Although the Bonneau family has tried for years to get justice for Gilbert’s murder, they have not succeeded against a church-backed resistance that knows no mercy. There was a witness to Gilbert’s suffocation. The testimony of the witness to the murder and of others who were abused in st. colmans falls on deaf ears. Is it a coincidence that Gilbert and Rocco, both born in 1944, were both smothered with a pillow by a nun? I believe that this is the method by which they killed many children because it didn't leave any marks on the victim. If there was a chance that a family would come looking for the child, the nuns wanted to be sure they could blame the death on something other than themselves. No one questioned the mother superior who told police that the child died in his sleep.
Gilbert’s brother Bill, his brother Ernie (now deceased) and Bob, a friend (who is still alive and the witness to Gilbert’s murder) fought since 1995 to get justice for Gilbert. Bill says, “Living in an area controlled by the Catholic Church has been difficult for my late brother and now myself to get this done.”
Bob, also a survivor of st. colmans’ abuse said, “I was an eye witness to Gilbert's murder, and a victim of abuse that has me crippled both physically, and mentally to this very day. We have fought so hard for justice, and then just got tossed to the side of the road. Not a day goes by that I don't think about, and just about can see that nun straddling Gilbert, and Gilbert kicking. But the [local] bishop rejected their pleas. So many kids and so many beatings. I will never understand the denial. I wear the scars today, and I watched it happen during the 40's and 50's. So many witnesses, and yet no help, or caring.” An investigator became involved and although he found good evidence, the district attorney paid no attention. Here is what was ignored:
Augustine Papay Jr., retired New York City Homicide Detective and a licensed Private Investigator in Port Jervis, New York investigated Gilbert’s death at the request of the family. He said, “My findings are supported by factual findings, which are corroborated by clear and convincing evidence. Both the police investigation and my own investigation uncovered evidence of widespread abuse by nuns, and a consistent pattern of vicious physical assaults on children.”
He believes there was denial and cover up of numerous abuses of at least three deaths at st. Colemans. “Children were very often beaten to within an inch of their lives. They would be kept hidden in their horrible conditions in a secret infirmary deep within the bowels of this home and left to their fate in that they either got better or didn’t get better, said Investigator Papay. He found that these children were taken to the hospital only when they were beyond help. In each case they were always unconscious or comatose and near death when they arrived at the hospital. Specifically, Papay determined that Gilbert Bonneau was viciously assaulted by a nun with a wooden blunt instrument, whereupon he was bleeding from the head. An unidentified nun then took Gilbert to the infirmary, where she subsequently suffocated him with a pillow, because he would not stop crying. He was later removed to Albany Hospital in a comatose state, where he died from "asphyxia due to compression of the neck and chest" several hours after being admitted to the Emergency Room.
Bob’s testimony is perhaps the most compelling in the entire investigation. He said he saw the nun in the boys’ infirmary at least twice, shouting at Gilbert Bonneau to shut up before she went into a state of rage. She pulled a pillow from underneath Gilberts head and forced it over his face by pressing with all her strength to suffocate Gilbert into a state of unconsciousness.
It was very difficult for Bob to talk about Gilbert’s murder. It was even more difficult for him to talk about the abuse that he endured. He spoke to me because he wanted everyone to understand what the nuns and the church did to him. When I asked what happened to him at st. colemans he said:
“Rape, beatings that you only read about, and these days they put people in prison for those kinds of beatings. The nuns gave the most horrific beatings, knowing that if you told anyone "you" would be the liar, and we would get another [beating]. I am crippled to this day, and have a morphine pump implant, because of a certain Sister Cecelia who liked to jam a small club into my spine, and when I finally fell to the ground, she would kick any place I couldn't cover with my hands, and arms. One nun hit me in the head with a brick which broke my nose, which still gives me trouble today. These are quotes when I asked bishop Hubbard and his assistant for help concerning the permanent scars, and disfigurement,” he said, "Nuns are not considered Clergy". Therefore there was no help, nor did they feel any responsibility for what Nuns did. That includes Murder.”
Bob continued, “To be honest with you, what happened to me at St. Colmans has torn me down for my entire life. I could only get so far back up. I was treated like a nothing during my formative years, and even to this day, I don't feel like very much. Even though I have made it to 68 years old, I had to fight and scratch for every year. Those beatings live with me until this day. I scream within my head for help. I scream for relief of what I saw, and experienced at St. Colmans. Sometimes when I am alone.......... "I Just Scream out Loud". That’s all I can do right now. I am not thrilled to be bringing this stuff to the surface. I hope some good for all victims can come out of this.”
What is going on at st. colmans today? There are stories on justiceforgilbert.com. Two grown women, who are biological sisters (not nuns), one of which had survived nun torture, came back to st. colemans. They thought they could talk to the nuns and get some understanding or an apology from them. The sister who had been abused, Barbara, went to walk around the grounds while her sister Susan tried to talk to the nuns. Right away the nun said, “Have your lawyers talk to my lawyers,” even though they were just there to talk and not to seek legal action. Suddenly Barbara burst into the office visibly shaken and said, “Susan you need to come with me now, a little boy is being abused.”
What they found was an autistic child who was being constrained, forced down on his knees with his head pushed against a wall. This was “standard procedure” for handling autistic children as they
learned from the nuns. St. colmans has been “treating” autistic and developmentally disabled children since 1982. It is the same abuse pattern: children that can’t communicate, like Rocco, are singled out to be repeatedly abused because they can’t tell anyone about the torture. The sisters also told the Autistic Association who said it was not an acceptable form of discipline – but nothing was done to stop it.
Even though Barbara and her sister reported the incident to the Child Abuse Hotline there were no results; they went to a local newspaper – where the reporter informed them that they didn’t have any evidence, and there was nothing he could do. Apparently, an eyewitness account of the abuse was not sufficient – not in a town where the church can do no wrong. At st. colemans today, they are still taking care of autistic children – and they are licensed and certified by the New York Department of Education. Is this separation of church and state? Are they really caring for them in a humane way? Do we know what goes on behind closed doors at st. colemans?
What happened at st. adalberts, st. colmans, and st. agnes together with the fate of many others abused at other catholic homes shows a pattern of abuse that is widespread. Until the laws are changed so that catholic schools and homes can be investigated and watched and shut down, children will continue to be abused.