Plan to house accused priest near a middle school questioned

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PIEDMONT, S.D. (KEVN TV) -- Some Piedmont parents are questioning why Catholic authorities want to house an accused priest at a church residence across the street from a middle school.

Father John Praveen was arrested on Oct. 22 following a joint Rapid City Police and Pennington County Sheriff's Office investigation. He is accused of having sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl on two occasions. He is being held in the Pennington County Jail pending trial. His bail has been set at $100,000 cash only.

On Tuesday a lawyer for Praveen asked a judge to release Praveen from jail before trial. Attorney John Murphy said the Diocese of Rapid City would put Praveen under its supervision at Casa Maria, a church property in Piedmont for retired priests. "Father John will be monitored," Murphy said adding that no children are present at Casa Maria.

Black Hills Fox News received calls from concerned parents almost immediately.

Casa Maria sits along Sturgis Road in Piedmont and is directly across the street from the Stagebarn Middle School -- and two day care centers.

One concerned Stagebarn parent stepped off the distance between Casa Maria and the school and found they are 117 paces apart.

Parents at the school told Black Hills Fox News they are concerned that church officials are overlooking what they say are pertinent details.

"They specifically said they didn't want (Praveen) near children," said Marcy Rahn. "But I was kind of like, OK, but you're less than 200 yards from a middle school and also across the street from two day cares."

Murphy on Friday said he had no comment and Father Michel Mulloy form the Diocese of Rapid City said the church had no comment but was preparing a statement for release soon.

Prosecutors on Tuesday objected to releasing Praveen or even lowering his bail. Seventh Circuit Judge Robert Mandel said he would rule on Murphy's request at his next court date.

Stagebarn parents are hoping that if Praveen is released, some other residence can be found.

"I don't think that's a good place," said Rahn. "I think we need to really, really consider all of our options that we have available."

Praveen, who's full name is John Praveen Kumar Itukulapati, was ordained in 2009 in India where he is from. He came to the Rapid City Diocese in November 2017 and originally served on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. He transferred down to the Rapid City Cathedral in the early summer of 2018.

Preveen is next due in court in Rapid City on Nov. 16 at 11 a.m. He is expected to enter a plea at that time. Praveen faces two charges of sexual contact with a child under 16 which is a class 3 felony carrying a maximum of 15 years in prison and/or a $60,000 fine. If he is convicted he would be prohibited by law form living in such close proximity to a middle school.