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Missing church funds probed

Amount is greater than first believed

FALMOUTH -- The amount of money missing from a Cape Cod church is far more than the $50,000 original estimate and may be as much as $800,000, parishioners were told yesterday.

The Rev. Bernard Kelly, former pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, resigned last November about the same time he was sued by the Diocese of Fall River for allegedly misappropriating $50,000. He has not been criminally charged.

The diocese has increased the lien on Kelly's home to $800,000, although the final amount determined to be missing in all likelihood will be much less than that, according to a letter from Bishop George Coleman read at Mass yesterday by the current pastor.

The lien ties up Kelly's assets and will help protect the diocese and St. Joseph's from financial loss. An independent audit is being conducted on the finances of the Woods Hole church.

"The audit hasn't been completed, but from early findings, the diocese was advised to increase the lien," diocese spokesman John Kearns told the Cape Cod Times.

Kelly declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper.

Kelly, who was pastor of the church since 1997, was placed on leave after the bishop learned that he was being questioned by police in connection with a slaying.

Authorities say Jonathan Wessner, 20, of Falmouth, was killed Sept. 20, allegedly by convicted child rapist Paul Nolin, a friend of Kelly's who was hired as a handyman at the church. Nolin, who has pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping charges, is awaiting trial.

Kelly changed his will to make Nolin one of two major beneficiaries.

Auditors have been sharing information with District Attorney Michael O'Keefe's office.

"When we complete the investigation, the case will be presented to a grand jury and we won't have any other comments than that," O'Keefe said.

Kelly's lawyer, Francis O'Boy, said the will was changed after Nolin was charged with Wessner's murder. Kelly intends to repay the missing money, O'Boy has said.

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