Jerrell Harris, 21, charged with beating, robbing elderly priest

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Jerrell Harris, 21, has been charged in connection with a 2011 attack on Father Daniel Mallette, an elderly Chicago priest.

Police said the suspect was on parole when 80-year-old Mallette was beaten and robbed in the rectory where he lived, in the 9800 block of South Throop Street in Chicago just before 12:30 a.m. on December 6, 2011.

Three weeks after he was viciously beaten, Father Dan Mallette returned to the cheers of his parishioners at St. Margaret of Scotland in Chicago's Washington Heights neighborhood. But his attackers remained at large, two young men dressed as ninjas who broke into the rectory and beat the then 80-year-old priest with his cane and a holy water sprinkler. As they fled with cash from a rectory safe, one of them asked Mallette if he wanted them to call an ambulance for him, and then said, pray for us.

"I'll never forget what he looked like that night in the emergency room. I thought it was the last time I was going to see him," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

On Friday, police charged Jerrell Harris as one of Father Mallette's attackers. Harris had been in prison on an unrelated conviction and prosecutors say he admitted to planning and carrying out the robbery.

At 21, Harris already owns an extensive arrest record, including battery when he was 15. A few months later he was himself a shooting victim. Then came 13 arrests in a two-year period for drug possession, criminal trespass, and aggravated assault of a peace officer. The last of those came in October 2010 when Harris was arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member. He went to prison, and was paroled shortly before the attack on Mallette.

Two months later, Harris was twice arrested and returned to prison for vehicular hijacking. Before being locked up, his last known address was three blocks north of the St. Margaret Rectory.

Jerrell Harris was a suspect early on in the attack on Father Dan Mallette, but police didn't have enough to bring charges until now. On Thursday, Harris was released from a downstate prison after doing time on another charge, and police were there to re-arrest him.

Father Malette does not want to speak publicly about the arrest, but the sheriff confirms that Malette does know who Harris is, since the priest had worked with so many young men in the neighborhood. Police do have some leads on the second suspect, but so far, there have been no arrests.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.