Police seek information on school ‘atmosphere’ during accused priest’s tenure

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NAUGATUCK — Police are seeking information about the “atmosphere” at St. Francis Parochial School during the tenure of a former priest, who is facing child sex charges in New Mexico.

Arthur J. Perrault, 80, was assigned to St. Francis on Sept. 18, 1965. After less than nine weeks, the Archdiocese of Hartford abruptly transferred him to a New Mexico treatment center for priests accused of sexual abuse.

Perrault, who was born in Bristol and graduated from Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, was ordained in 1964. In addition to Naugatuck, he served at parishes in Sharon, East Hartford and New Haven.

On Tuesday morning, Naugatuck police asked St. Francis alumni who attended the school in 1965 to contact the department with information about the school climate at the time.

“Specifically, the Naugatuck Police Department would like to speak with any individuals who can recollect what the atmosphere and the culture of student life was like during this time frame,” the agency said in a news release.

Police asked anyone with information to contact Det. Sgt. Mark Pettinicchi at 203-720-2590.

Perrault has not been charged with sexually assaulting children in Connecticut.

Naugatuck police spokesman Lt. Bryan Cammarata said the department hasn’t received any complaints against Perrault. He said the department is working in conjunction with the State’s Attorney office to determine whether any wrongdoing occurred during Perrault’s time in Naugatuck.

In New Mexico, Perrault faces seven charges of sexual abuse stemming from incidents in 1991 and 1992 at Kirtland Air Force Base and Santa Fe National Cemetery. In October 1992, he absconded to Tangier, Morocco.

Perrault was extradited in September to face the federal charges in Albuquerque. Those charges are what prompted authorities in Connecticut to look into his history at St. Francis Catholic School, which the archdiocese closed after last school year due to declining enrollment.

“In light of the recent charges lodged in other jurisdictions, it is appropriate to gather as much information as possible regarding his conduct during the time period that he was assigned to a parish in Naugatuck,” Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt said.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.