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Man charged in beating of priest

Jerrell Harris. / Phofrom Chicago Police.

Jerrell Harris. / Photo from Chicago Police.

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Updated: June 18, 2014 6:09AM

After robbing and beating an 80-year-old Catholic priest with his cane and holy water sprinkler, one of the two suspects requested that the elderly religious leader pray for them, Cook County prosecutors said.

Jerrell Harris and his cohort also asked the Rev. Daniel Mallette if he wanted them to call him an ambulance following the attack at the St. Margaret of Scotland Parish three years ago, Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Antonietti said.

Mallette suffered two broken ribs and bruises to his left forehead as a result of the Dec. 6, 2011, attack, Antonietti said.

Mallette was sleeping at the parish, at 9837 S. Throop St., when he awoke to find the two men standing over his bed with masks and black “ninja-like” clothing, Antonietti said.

The men allegedly demanded money before beating the priest in the head and body with their hands, fist and feet.

They then started hitting Mallette’s forehead with his cane and the holy water sprinkler, causing him to bleed profusely, Antonietti said.

Harris and the other man, who is still at large, forced Mallette to give them the combination of the rectory safe, Antonietti said.

They allegedly ended up swiping $600 and started spraying Clorox bleach in the rectory in an attempt to wipe away evidence.

When the rectory’s alarm went off, one of the two men made the request for the prayer and offered to call an ambulance, Antonietti said.

Harris, a reputed member of the Black P. Stones, allegedly admitted to planning and committing the crime.

At the time, Harris was on probation for unlawful possession of a firearm by a gang member.

The 21-year-old was just released on parole Thursday for a 2012 carjacking, Antonietti said.

Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil ordered Harris, of the 1300 block of West 97th St., held in lieu of $500,000 bail Friday for aggravated battery, home invasion and armed robbery.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, a close friend and former parishioner at Mallette’s Washington Heights church, said Friday the 82-year-old priest is “doing really well.”

“He’s relieved that there has been some closure,” Dart said after visiting with Mallette at his Oak Lawn home.

Dart said Mallette has fully recovered from his physical injuries, but he hasn’t quite forgotten what happened.

“Anybody who has this occur to them, in the middle of the night, they’re still thinking about it,” Dart said. “But the physical part of it, he’s overcome.”

Although retired, Mallette still officiates Mass from his home and from other parishes, including St. Thomas More on the Southwest Side, Dart said. He is also a chaplain at the Cook County Jail within the jail’s substance abuse program, visiting inmates two to three times a week.

“For an 80-something-year-old man who was beaten half to death, he lives a pretty vital and healthy life,” Dart said.

Mallette declined comment on the case on Friday.

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