Admitted pedophile, former Savannah priest dies in prison

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Wayland Brown pleaded guilty to abusing two boys in the 1980s while a priest at St James School

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Instead of guiding children in their faith, a Savannah priest sexually abused them.

Now, the man behind those crimes is dead. Wayland Brown died in a South Carolina prison on June 8.

Officials with the Department of Corrections call his death “expected” and said there was “no foul play” involved.

Brown admitted back in October of 2018 to sexually abusing two boys — Alan Ranta and Chris Templeton — back in the early 1980s when he was a priest in the Savannah Diocese and at St. James School.

He was brought to South Carolina early that year to face criminal charges. Because of the laws in Georgia, he could not be criminally prosecuted there.

But by bringing the boys across state lines, to various areas of Hardeeville where he molested them, prosecutors were able to file charges against him.

Brown pleaded guilty in a Beaufort County courtroom and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. He only served a little more than 8 months.

Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap, who helped prosecute Brown in South Carolina, says she is glad that victims got some closure before Brown’s death.

“I’m really glad we got justice for the victims before he passed away,” she said. “They knew they were victims of crime but it gave them validation that he was finally held accountable for what he had done.

“They had waited for so many years and struggled with so many things, I am glad we were able to give them that closure.”

It took Templeton more than 30 years to remember his abuse at the hands of his priest. Now he’s finding emotions connected to Brown’s death difficult to express.

“Not sadness that he’s dead at all,” he said. “But it has been an exhausting process, it has been an exhausting life…that was damaged a lot because of him.”

Templeton is still working through his pain, but wants to be an advocate for anyone else dealing with his type of abuse and the emotions that can come with it.

“I hope that others have the strength to know that he definitely can’t hurt them anymore now. And please come forward and get you some help,” he said, adding, “I want this to get out there for others wherever you are, in whatever town you were abused by a priest and were scared to come forward to know that you can.”

As for his own feelings, Templeton calls himself “conflicted.”

“Maybe I should say that I hope he repented. But you know, I think I know where he is. I believe he is where he needs to be and where he belongs and we will never have to hear from him again,” Templeton said.

“I know where I’m going and I believe I won’t see him there,” he added.

The Savannah Catholic Diocese was accused of hiding Brown’s abuse and not protecting the boys.

The Diocese settled civil lawsuits connected to Brown’s abuse with both Ranta and Templeton for millions of dollars.

Templeton has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the Charleston diocese for its role in the alleged cover-up of his abuse in South Carolina.

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