Thursday, February 01, 2007

 

Source: Priest used wine bottle


by Cathy Scott

A priest wanted by police for attempted murder hit a woman on the back of her head with a sacramental bottle of wine -- the kind used during communion services -- according to a friend of the victim.

When a parishioner heard a woman's voice crying out, police were called to Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church. The suspect, Father George Chaanine, was last seen by the victim in the Roman Catholic church's office at Alta and Campbell drives.

Chaanine fled on the evening of Jan. 19 after the victim -- identified by her attorney as entertainer and singer Michelina Bellamy -- began screaming, said a friend of the victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The alleged beating was prompted by Bellamy rebuffing the priest's sexual advances, which, the friend noted, had escalated over time.

Bellamy is preparing to file a lawsuit against the priest and the church, according to her friend.

Bellamy, a parishioner who sings in the church's choir, was hired a couple months ago by Chaanine "for more money than the job was worth," said the friend. Bellamy's adult daughter was also hired by Chaanine. Both worked part time in the church office.

Chaanine moved to Las Vegas just more than a year ago, according to Fred, a Lebanese man who asked that his last name not be used. Before he was appointed to Our Lady of Las Vegas, Chaanine presided over a parish of 40 Maronite Christians in Las Vegas.

The Maronite Christians -- a Lebanese group -- had asked the Roman Catholic Diocese for a minister. The diocese responded by sending Chaanine, who is also from Lebanon, to Las Vegas from El Paso, Texas.

But after being their minister for four or five months, Chaanine gave them a 30-day notice to find another priest. Chaanine was moving on to Our Lady of Las Vegas, where he was to be a senior priest, he told them.

Fred, who met Chaanine through a friend shortly after the priest arrived in Las Vegas, described Chaanine as "full of himself. I didn't like him. He was overbearing."

Fred's take on the alleged attack? "He probably had the hots for her, and he couldn't take rejection."

Our Lady of Las Vegas has a colorful past, including current and former parishioners with Mafia connections, like Chicago mobster Joey Cusumano -- who is in the Black Book of unsavory characters forever banned from setting foot inside a Nevada casino -- and businessman Tony Tegano, whose daughter is married to Cusumano.

Then there's former parishioner Rick Rizzolo, the former owner of the Crazy Horse Too topless club, who recently pleaded guilty after a lengthy federal extortion and racketeering investigation. Dave Casaleggio, a former priest at Our Lady of Las Vegas, publicly supported Rizzolo, including speaking on his behalf while still working for the church.