KEVIN WALLEVAND REPORTS: North Dakota priest says 'fear has overtaken' him since attack

TOWNER, N.D. — It will likely be a packed, emotional courtroom in McHenry County on Monday, Feb. 25, when a judge is expected to sentence a man charged with attacking a Catholic priest in Anamoose and leaving him for dead.

In a victim impact statement obtained by WDAY News, Father Robert Wapenski details what happened to him and its lasting impact on his well-being.

Chad Vincent Legare allegedly drove from Alexandria in central Minnesota to rural North Dakota to attack the priest in his home on Jan. 30, 2018, accusing the priest of raping a woman. None of the sexual assault allegations were proven.

Legare faces felony charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault and burglary. He entered an Alford plea of guilty to a charge of attempted murder in November. An Alford plea can be entered when a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence for a jury to find a person guilty. Charges of burglary and aggravated assault were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea.

Wapenski was beaten on the face, head and back, choked with speaker wire and left bloody and unconscious. He got help only after church parishioners found him.

Father Wapenski said he has forgiven Legare, but still worries he will try to kill him.

"I cannot explain the fear that has overtaken me since this attack," Father Wapenski wrote in prepared remarks to the judge. "When he was unable to kill me with his bare hands, he wrapped a cord around my neck, choked me and left me for dead."

The priest says the ordeal was emotionally and psychologically devastating, and that since the attack he has suffered from paranoia, fear, anger, disbelief and post-traumatic stress.

"As horrifying as the incident was, the aftermath has been 1,000 times worse. Every sound at night, I jump in fear. I am always looking over my should. I fear this ruthless man, I feel safe nowhere, even though I know he is in jail."

Father Wapenski fears his assailant will get a light sentence and will ask the court on Monday to give Legare the maximum sentence.