Robert Little / Special to The News-Press
A week has passed since Robert Little was arrested on accusations of molesting a Catholic school student, but he continues to reside next to the school in a building owned by the church.
Little, 74, was arrested Jan. 29 on a charge of lewd or lascivious behavior on a victim 12-16 years old. Investigators said Little made the victim expose himself, and touched him, while the victim was visiting Little’s condo on Fort Myers Beach, according to a Lee County Sheriff’s Office report. Little told deputies the victim was a student at the now-defunct Father Anglim Academy for mentally challenged children, according to the report.
Little was released from Lee County Jail on Saturday, on a bond of $10,000. He is to have no contact with the victim or other children, according to court documents. His arraignment is scheduled for March 3.
After his release, Little returned to his unit in Villa Francisco, a senior living home owned by the Diocese of Venice. The church is considering whether it can and will remove Little from the home — it’s a complicated decision because the home is run independently of the church, said Billy Atwell, spokesman for the Diocese of Venice.
“It’s definitely not out of the question,” Atwell said.
In the meantime, Little lives next to St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, an elementary school off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near downtown Fort Myers. The school is affiliated with St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, also next door.
When he was arrested, Little told deputies his involvement extended beyond living next door — he said he worked as a Eucharistic minister for St. Francis Church.
But Atwell said that’s wrong.
“I have no idea why he would say that,” he said, “but it’s not true.”
Little volunteered with the church, helping set up for Mass and distributing communion, starting in 2010, Atwell said. But he resigned last summer for health reasons. Little worked as a maintenance manager at Villa Francisco until 2010.
Some parents of students at St. Francis Xavier school said Little was frequently seen in the area of the school and church after he resigned from his volunteer position.
Parents contacted declined further comment Wednesday.
Little told deputies he looked at child porn on his computer many years ago, was interested in pre-pubescent boys, and had acted on his desires before, according to the sheriff’s office report.
“Little stated that the temptation to engage in sexual acts with children could ‘rear its head at any time,’ ” according to the report.
That’s why Little joined a men’s group at the Catholic church — so his vows would keep him under control, according to the report.
Atwell said he was unaware of that motivation. Little went through a federal and state background check, as is required for anyone wishing to volunteer with the diocese, Atwell said. Diocese policy states any volunteer or employee who thinks a child has been abused must contact the authorities and the church victim assistance coordinator.
“That’s definitely something that the church takes very seriously,” Atwell said.
Little has no prior arrests in Lee County, and has not served in state prison, according to Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Corrections records.
When he volunteered with St. Francis Xavier Church, Little’s duties did not extend to the affiliated school, according to Diocese of Venice spokesman Bob Reddy.
“To my knowledge,” he said in an email, “he did not interact with children more than any other volunteer or parishioner.”
Jan Ortenzo, principal of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, sent a letter to parents following Little’s arrest.
“This unfortunate incident,” she wrote, “has no relation with our school or parish.”
Connect with this reporter on Twitter or Facebook: @MarisaKendall, Facebook.com/marisakendallnews