A New York City woman and her husband have filed a lawsuit claiming that in 2019, a homeless man beat and raped her in a Manhattan church until a priest intervened.

The plaintiffs, identified in the filing as “Jane Doe” and “John Doe,” filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against the Archdiocese of New York and Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Manhattan on March 1, the summons and complaint state. The plaintiffs allege that the rape occurred on January 30, 2019, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Hamilton Heights, after Jane Doe, who lives near the church, noticed the lights were off, “which was abnormal.” 

Doe, who the New York Post reports is 68 years old, went to the church and discovered the door was open, “which was also unusual,” so she called out to check if anyone was in the church, the complaint alleges. 

The lawsuit reads in part: 

A person who frequented the church and had previously exposed his genitals to older women at the church, encountered Ms. DOE and covered her mouth, took her to the bathroom, locked the two of them inside, and he proceeded to beat her with his fists and slam her against the wall.

The assailant then tore her clothes off and raped her, the suit alleges. 

At around 10:00 p.m., a priest arrived at the scene and called out, prompting the victim to scream and the perpetrator to flee, the filing states. The New York Post reports the priest to be Rev. Gilberto Angel-Neri. The victim was transported to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital via ambulance, according to the lawsuit. 

Hours after the alleged attack, police apprehended Craig Ellis, 55, about a block from the scene, according to the Post. Ellis, a homeless man with 43 prior arrests, was allegedly in possession of the victim’s cellphone and jacket, sources told the outlet. 

The lawsuit alleges negligence on behalf of the church and archdiocese: 

Ms. DOE was subjected to rape, sexual assault, and abuse as a result of the negligence by the defendants, ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK (“ARCHIDOCESE”) and OUR LADY OF LOURDES CHURCH (“OLLC”), when they failed to take reasonable security measures such that they allowed a dangerous person onto the premises; such person was known to the churchmembers and staff to be a danger to the community. 

The compensatory damages sought by Jane and John Doe are not specified in the suit:

By reason of the foregoing, the plaintiffs are entitled to compensatory damages from the defendants in such sums a jury would find just and adequate, and the plaintiffs are further entitled to punitive and exemplary damages from the defendants in such sums as a jury would find just and appropriate to deter the defendants and others from future similar misconduct.

Online court records show Ellis was charged with a number of counts, including attempted rape, aggravated sexual abuse, robbery, and a criminal sex act – to name a few. He is still being held on a $100,000 cash bond, according to court records. Ellis has undergone numerous psychiatric evaluations since his arrest and his next court date is set for August 25, 2022. 

The case is Doe v. Archdiocese of New York, No. 151974/2022, in the Supreme Court of New York County, New York.

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