CHICAGO — One of the men who dragged a well-known Chicago priest out of his bed at the parish rectory to beat and rob him in 2011 asked the priest to pray for him, prosecutors said.
Jerrell Harris, 21, was arrested Thursday after being identified as the person who broke into the rectory of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church on Dec. 6, 2011, where 80-year-old Fr. Dan Mallette lived, police said.
Mallette was awakened on the night of Dec. 6, 2011, by two men wearing masks and "ninja-like suits" who had broken into the rectory of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church, Assistant State's Attorney Erin Antonietti said.
The two robbers demanded money and started beating the 80-year-old priest, Antonietti said. One of them grabbed Mallette's walking cane and a tool used to sprinkle holy water, striking the priest in the head, she said.
The robbers got the combination and key to the church safe, where they found $600, Antonietti said. The culprits sprayed Clorox around the rectory in an effort to eliminate any physical evidence, Antonietti said.
The Sun-Times reported that Mallette, fearing for his life, confessed his sins aloud — and his attackers told him to shut up before beating him more and forcing him to open a safe that held money for the poor.
On Thursday, more than two years after the attack, Harris was arrested the same day he got paroled from jail on a 2012 carjacking case, records show.
Harris, of the 1300 block of West 97th Street, was charged with three felonies: aggravated battery of a victim over 60, armed home invasion and armed robbery.
Mallette suffered gashes in his forehead, which required stitches, and two broken ribs, prosecutors said.
Harris appeared briefly in court on Friday, when a Cook County judge ordered him held on $500,000 bail.
Harris' co-offender remains at-large, authorities said.
Another well-known Chicago priest was happy to hear about the arrest.
"If they caught him, and they got the right person, I'm really glad," said the Fr. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church, who was with Mallette the morning after the attack. "If they asked for anything, he would have given it to them. To beat him the way they did, it was merciless."
Pfleger said his friend's recovery from his injuries was "long and difficult."
"In my mind, I think that he never came back to his full self after that," Pfleger said.
As the robbers were leaving the rectory, Harris' co-offender allegedly asked Mallette to pray for them, Antonietti said. The robbers also offered to call an ambulance for the bleeding priest.
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