Jerrell Harris, 21, was arrested in Chicago on May 15 after being identified as the assailant of Rev. Dan Mallette – a well-known Catholic priest who was beaten and robbed in 2011 at his residence at St. Margaret of Scotland parish. Harris, and an accomplice who remains at large, broke into the rectory and awakened the 80-year-old priest. According to Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti, the two robbers – dressed in black clothing and wearing masks – demanded money and proceeded to beat the elderly churchman. One of them also beat Mallette on the head with a walking cane and an aspergillum: a metal instrument used to sprinkle holy water. Mallette suffered gashes that required stitches, as well as two broken ribs.
Apparently fearing that his judgement was near, Mallette began to confess his sins aloud as the assailants continued to beat him. After silencing him, Harris and his accomplice demanded the keys for the church safe. The pair seized the $600 they found there and then splashed chlorine bleach in an effort to hid physical evidence. As the robbers were fleeing, Harris' confrere allegedly asked Mallette to pray for them, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Antonietti. The robbers also offered to call an ambulance for the bleeding Catholic priest.
Defendant Harris was arrested on the very day he was paroled from jail for a 2012 carjacking case. He is now charged with three felonies: armed robbery, armed home invasion, and aggravated battery of a victim over sixty. He is now being held on $500,000 bail in Cook County after a May 16 court appearance.
According to local media, the famed and controversial Rev. Michael Pfleger – pastor of St. Sabina Catholic parish in Chicago – expressed satisfaction with the arrest of Mallette’s assailant. "If they caught him, and they got the right person, I'm really glad." He added, "If they asked for anything, he would have given it to them. To beat him the way they did, it was merciless." Pfleger was with Mallette on the day after the assault and averred that his friend’s recovery has been "long and difficult."
"In my mind, I think that he never came back to his full self after that," Pfleger said.