Montana double murder case raises issue of religious retreats

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2002

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) -- Attorneys for Alan Reavley say they'll fight prosecutors' attempts to use his comments at a Roman Catholic retreat to convict Reavley of a double murder 37 years ago.

Such comments are privileged and confidential, just as a confession to a priest is confidential, defense attorney Jeff Sutton said.

Cascade County Attorney Brant Light says courts should hear witness reports that Reavley broke down crying at a 1994 retreat in Great Falls and said he had once ''killed some people'' as a young man.

Light believes those people were Jim and Lois Arrotta, who were stabbed to death in a bungled 1964 burglary. Sutton said Reavley denies any involvement in the crime.

Great Falls detectives questioned some 200 participants in Catholic retreats that Reavley attended.

In New York last August, U.S. District Judge Charles Brieant overturned a manslaughter conviction on the grounds that a defendant's confession at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting should have been protected.

Confidentiality in retreats is important, said the Rev. Jay Peterson, vicar general of the local Catholic diocese. However, the diocese didn't hesitate when police detectives asked for names of participants at Cursillo retreats over the last decade or so, Peterson said.

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