Fired St. Thomas Aquinas High School theology teacher denies molestation accusation

Patrick O’Dea
Patrick O’Dea Broward Sheriff's Office

A 64-year-old former theology teacher at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High School was arrested Monday on a lewd and lascivious molestation charge from an alleged September incident.

Patrick O’Dea denied the accusation after posting $50,000 bond and being released from Broward County Main Jail.

“I teach respect for human beings, I teach respect for God, respect for the law,” O’Dea told Herald news partner CBS4. “Why would I do anything to jeopardize my career and put myself through this ordeal that I’ve endured since Sept. 11?

“An accusation is 10 times louder than a denial. Sadly in some people’s minds, you’re guilty until proven innocent, right. I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ll say that to anyone until the day I die.”

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According to the probable cause affidavit, a 15-year-old student told Fort Lauderdale police she was talking to another student in O’Dea’s class when he “unwantedly grabbed the victim by her left arm and held her. At that moment, the defendant began running his fingers alongside the victim’s clothing and her left breast against her will.”

An Archdiocese of Miami spokesperson said in an email that after the student made the allegation, per policy, the Archdiocese notified police and put O’Dea on administrative leave. In early December, the Archdiocese fired O’Dea after 34 years of employment.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.