Former Savannah priest pleads guilty to sex abuse charges

Crime & Safety

A former Savannah priest made it official on Tuesday, admitting he abused some of his own students.

Wayland Brown faced off with two of his own victims in a Beaufort County courtroom as he made his guilty plea.

“I was unable to look at myself in the mirror,” said Allan Ranta, one of Brown’s victims. “I felt like I had a parasite coursing through my body at all times.”

Brown abused Allan Ranta in 1979 when he was just 9 years old and Chris Templeton when he was 12 years old in 1986. Both say they blocked out the abuse for decades.

But the images, the visuals, the memories came flooding back, with devastating effects.

“I lost 15 pounds in the first week,” said Ranta. “And would lay naked on the bathroom floor with guttural screams crying out like a terrified child being tortured by Father Wayland Brown.”

“I mourn my 12-year-old and 13-year-old self,” said Templeton. “I feel bad that I wasn’t able to save him.”

Brown, who already was serving time in Maryland on abuse charges, now admitting to 9 counts of sexual battery and abuse in South Carolina. Those charges stem from an incident when he took the boys from Savannah, across state lines to molest them in churches, parks and a train depot in Hardeeville.

The criminal case was brought to South Carolina because the statute of limitations had run out in Georgia.

Brown heard the charges, and made his plea.

“Sexual Abuse of Chris Templeton at the Catholic Church, how do you plead to that charge?”

“Guilty,” said Brown.

Tears flowed freely after that plea, as both men finally got the closure they wanted — and deserved.

“I believe the victory is today,’ said Templeton. “Because we are going to help other people. I believe this will help the others that are still suffering and still lonely and still sad and feel like they would rather die, or they can’t kill themselves, to have an opportunity to get help.”

After listening to his victims’ statements, Brown then addressed the court. But the disgraced priest would not place any blame on the church. 

“The priests, the Bishops, had no knowledge of what was going on,” said Brown. “I don’t think they should be held responsible for the selfishness of my own doing.”

But that statement won’t stop the many questions the victims will have for the rest of their lives.

“To deceased Bishop Lassard, why didn’t you stop Father Wayland Brown from raping children?” asked Ranta. “Bishop John Kevin Boland, why didn’t you stop Father Wayland Brown from raping children? Bishop Gregory Hartmeyer, what are you going to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

Brown was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors and victims all admitting he will most likely die before finishing his sentence.

A hotline has been set up to find anyone in Georgia, South Carolina or around the nation who may have been abused by Wayland Brown. The line is also open to anyone who may have information for investigators about Brown or his victims.

That number is 912-652-8080.

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