The Diocese of Baton Rouge alerted parents of students at east-side Catholic schools in Ascension Parish about the arrest Thursday of a church volunteer on counts of sexual battery and indecent behavior with juveniles, though it said it hadn't received any complaints about the man's behavior with anyone affiliated with the church.
Jerry Oubre, 52, a former foster father and also a former volunteer coach with a Gonzales softball league, has been suspended by the Diocese from his volunteer position and forbidden to visit the campus of St. Theresa of Avila Church in Gonzales.
Oubre had volunteered since 2008 as a teacher in the Parish School of Religion of the St. Theresa of Avila Church Parish and had also been a volunteer boys basketball coach at St. Theresa Middle School in 2008-2009, the Diocese said.
Parents of students in the church’s religion school, as well as parents of students at St. Theresa Middle and St. John Primary schools in Ascension Parish were notified of Oubre’s arrest.
Oubre, of Prairieville, was booked early Thursday on two counts of sexual battery and indecent behavior with juveniles, according to the jail website. Both counts are felonies.
The juvenile unit of the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office opened an investigation Jan. 16, 2019, after the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services told detectives they had received information that Oubre "possibly had sexual contact with a juvenile," Sheriff's spokeswoman Allison Hudson said.
As detectives investigated, another juvenile came forward with similar allegations against Oubre, Hudson said.
The case is still under investigation, Hudson said.
The jail did not provide further details of the allegations against Oubre.
Hudson confirmed that Oubre had been a foster father.
Marketa Garner Walters, secretary of DCFS, which provides foster care for children in custody of the department, said Thursday she couldn't talk specifically about Oubre's case, since it's an ongoing investigation, but she said the department is working closely with the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office.
"We are talking to them multiple times a day," Walters said, adding, "We are horrified."
In order to become a foster parent, Walters said, a person undergoes a criminal history check and an FBI fingerprint check and must take 30 hours of training. In addition, prospective foster parents are being evaluated as they go through training and have to have references, as well as go through a home study, Walters said.
She referred to Oubre's volunteer work with church programs and a youth sports league.
"All of us believed him to be something he obviously is not," Walters said.
Oubre was a volunteer coach for the Lassie League, a softball league for girls ages 4-15, of the city of Gonzales, and volunteered with the religion school held after school and on Sunday mornings at St. Theresa in Gonzales.
The Diocese of Baton Rouge provided The Advocate with a message that went out Thursday to parents of students at St. Theresa of Avila Parish School of Religion, St. Theresa Middle School and St. John Primary School, saying Oubre has been a volunteer teacher in the Parish School of Religion (PSR) at St. Theresa of Avila Church Parish in Gonzales.
"Mr. Oubre has been suspended from his volunteer position at St. Theresa Church Parish and has been forbidden to visit the campus. He has volunteered at St. Theresa Church since 2008 and has always had an aide who teaches with him present during weekly PSR sessions," the message from the Diocese says.
"Anyone knowing or suspecting child abuse should report this immediately to law enforcement or to the Department of Children and Family Services at 855-452-5437. Any allegation of child or vulnerable adult sexual abuse involving clergy or a representative of the church should then be reported to Amy Cordon, the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, at 225-242-0250," the Diocese message says.
An additional message was sent to parents by the Diocese later on Thursday, saying Oubre had also been a volunteer boys basketball coach at St. Theresa Middle School in 2008-2009.
On Thursday, Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux said in a statement that Oubre had coached with the city as a volunteer for close to 20 years.
Due to the nature of Oubre's arrest on Thursday, the mayor said, "the City of Gonzales will not be allowing Mr. Oubre to coach or assist in any capacity pending the outcome of the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office investigation."
Advocate staff writer Andrea Gallo contributed to this report.