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‘Innocent man jailed for killing Irish priest’

A WRITER who campaigned for the convicted killer of Jill Dando believes a man jailed for life for murdering an Irish priest is innocent.

English crime writer Scott Lomax, author of “The Case of Barry George”, the man who allegedly shot the TV presenter, and its updated version “Who killed Jill Dando?” has turned his attention to what he believes is another “miscarriage of justice”.

Co. Limerick born priest Fr Patrick “Paddy” Ryan (49) was brutally murdered in a seedy motel in Odessa, Texas, on December 21, 1981.

The following day, the Pallotine priest’s body was found naked, hands tied behind his back and bludgeoned to death.

The former Dean of Studies at the Pallotine seminary in Thurles had no identification with him when found, and the room, at the Sand and Sage Motel, was registered under a different name.

Fr Ryan, from Doon, Co Limerick, joined St William’s Church parish, in Denver City, Yoakum County, Texas, three years before his murder, having served 13 years in Tanzania.

His hands were tied with strips of heavy cloth and he appeared to have been dead for about 10 hours before he was discovered.

The motel where he was found was 94 miles from his parish.

Mr Lomax, who set up a website to highlight the case, said it took the police a number of days to identify the body.

In the meantime, a missing person’s investigation had been launched to Find Fr Ryan after it was determined he had failed to say Christmas Mass and had left some food being cooked at his home.

The police struggled to find the individual responsible for Fr Ryan’s horrific murder.

But 11 months later, in November, 1982, an Apache Indian named James Harry Reyos, a closet homosexual, who admitted being with Fr Ryan before the crime, was arrested after making a drunken confession to the police.

Reyos retracted his confession and has consistently maintained his innocence ever since, Mr Lomax said.

“The conviction of James Reyos is incredibly worrying because there was absolutely no evidence linking him to the murder of Fr Patrick Ryan,” Mr Lomax says.

“There were fingerprints and hairs at the scene of the crime which did not belong to Mr Reyos or Fr Ryan.”

Despite evidence showing he was 200 miles away from the crime scene on the night of the murder – including receipts and a traffic stop by police – Reyos was convicted and sentenced to 38 years imprisonment.

In 2004, Reyos was released from prison, on parole, after it was determined he posed no danger to the public. But now he wants to clear his name, Mr Lomax says.

“He is an innocent man and wants this to be recognised with Governor Rick Perry (the Governor of Texas) issuing him a full pardon on the grounds of innocence.

“Having spoken to him and having studied the facts, I am sure, as are many US politicians and even one of the lawyers involved in the prosecution at Mr Reyos’ appeal, that this is a grave miscarriage of justice,” Mr Lomax said.

The unsolved murder of another priest, Fr Benjamin Carrier, in November, 1982, in Yuma, Arizona, was very similar to Fr Ryan’s case.

On December 4, 1982, a man waiting for confession in the Sacred Heart Church in Boise, Idaho, swallowed a cyanide capsule. He died before he received absolution.

Police never identified the man – but one detective believes he was connected to the deaths of Fathers Ryan and Carrier – and may even have been a Catholic priest.

“Was Fr Carrier killed by the same man who killed Fr Ryan?”, Mr Lomax asked.

Police have since destroyed the forensic evidence in Fr Ryan’s case – so a connection to the death of the man in Boise may never be proved.

The above article appeared in the Evening Herald (a newspaper from the Republic of Ireland) on Saturday 6 August 2005. I only received a copy of the article in November 2005.