Strongsville Catholic priest placed on leave after charges filed for child pornography

Strongsville Catholic priest placed on leave after charges filed for child pornography
Rev. Robert D. McWilliams was taken into custody Thursday morning at St. Joseph Parish in Strongsville. (Source: Cleveland Catholic Diocese)

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WOIO) - Rev. Robert D. McWilliams, a Catholic priest working in Strongsville, was placed on leave by the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, after he was handcuffed and charged on Thursday for child pornography, a felony.

The Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) arrived at St. Joseph Parish this morning, and searched McWilliams’ living and office spaces for evidence related to crimes that were allegedly committed in Geauga County.

Laptops, a cell phone and an iPad were seized during the search.

"... After being notified of the matter, the diocese immediately placed Fr. McWilliams on administrative leave pending the outcome of this matter. St. Joseph Parish, Sts. Joseph and John School and the Diocese of Cleveland are committed to protecting children and stand ready to cooperate with law enforcement to assist in the investigation,” according to a statement released by the diocese on Thursday.

The alleged crimes date back to Aug. 17, 2016, according to court records.

A parent of a student at Sts. Joseph and John School, who wanted to remain anonymous, told 19 News that Fr. McWilliams was completely engaged with the students at the school and had just recently chaperoned a sixth grade trip to Camp Christopher.

“This not only pops the bubble this tears it wide open and you have to have conversations that you really had hoped you would never have,” she said. “You’re just rattled, you’re not sure of anything, you had hoped to shield them from this.”

McWilliams is set to appear in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court on Monday at 10 a.m.

McWilliams was ordained on May 19, 2017.

Return to 19 News for updates on this developing story.

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