A child-molesting Catholic priest from Ahwatukee Foothills has been arrested three years after fleeing Arizona against the terms of his punishment.
The U.S. Marshals Service took Wilputte Alanson "Lan" Sherwood, 63, into custody Sunday as he was leaving the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco.
Wilputte Alanson "Lan" Sherwood.
Sherwood was on lifetime probation and required to register as a sex offender following a 10-year prison sentence, which ended in 2003. He was last seen in the Valley in 2005.
Until his conviction, Sherwood served St. Benedict Catholic Church, 16223 S. 48th St.
"We are, obviously, happy that they found him," Catholic Diocese of Phoenix spokesman Jim Dwyer said Monday. "We were cooperating all along, with what little information we had. We let authorities know that if we found out anything, we would let them know."
Despite Sherwood's convictions for sexual conduct with a minor, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor and dangerous crimes against children, the church never defrocked him.
"He's still considered a priest, but not in good standing," Dwyer said.
Dwyer explained that a policy adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 requires the removal of priests who have sexually abused teens and children.
"He will never, ever be able to engage in any form of ministry again," Dwyer said. "So, functionally, he is not a priest anymore."
Thomas O'Brien, then Phoenix's top church official, was one of 239 bishops who approved the zero-tolerance policy.
But following Sherwood's arrest, his parishioners were horrified and angered to learn that O'Brien had sent him to St. Benedict in 1988 despite a conviction for indecent exposure two years before, stemming from an incident in an adult bookstore. Though it was Sherwood's second such conviction in three years, O'Brien said he didn't know about the first.
Investigators later found that Sherwood kept diaries showing he had more than 1,800 sexual encounters, many with hitchhikers and strangers he befriended and took to his home.
The U.S. Marshals Service said it caught Sherwood after determining he was living in San Francisco's Castro District. After the service at Most Holy Redeemer, Sherwood was arrested without incident.
Sherwood was booked into a California jail, where he awaits extradition proceedings for his return to Arizona. Also pending are federal charges for failing to register as a sex offender.