11/15/2003

Officer Charged With Sex Crimes is Missing

The Associated Press

GREAT FALLS (AP) -- A former police officer, charged with having long-term sexual relationships with two girls, has gone missing, authorities said Friday.

Jeff Cathel, 41, was released last week on a $25,000 bond after being charged with having sex with underage girls. Now, police said they can't find him and a $100,000 warrant has been issued for his arrest.

"We don't want him to hurt himself. We're concerned for his safety," said Joe Uribe with the state Department of Criminal Investigations, the lead investigator.

Police also have been warned to be careful, since Cathel is a former sniper for the Great Falls Police Department and may be armed. Cathel was supposed to turn in his guns as part of his release, but only turned in some of them.

He may be headed for the Dallas area, where he has an ex-wife and child, or to California, where his mother lives, Uribe said.

But Uribe said it's possible that Cathel just went hunting.

Cathel was fired Nov. 5, the day he was charged with the crimes against the girls, who are now adults. Investigators say DNA tests show he fathered a child five years ago with one of the girls.

Cathel is supposed to call his attorney at least once a week, is not supposed to have contact with the alleged victims and can't leave the state.

He is scheduled to enter a plea at his arraignment Thursday.

He faces a minimum of four years, but up to life in prison, and a $50,000 fine on each of the two felony counts.

The investigation continues, and more charges may be filed, Cascade County Attorney Brant Light said Friday.

Cathel is the police sniper who shot and wounded a mentally disturbed man after the man shot and killed police officer Shane Chadwick in 1994.

Cathel is described as 6-feet, 2 inches tall and 270 pounds with brown hair, hazel eyes and wire-rimmed glasses. He has several tattoos on his arms and is driving a white Geo Prism.

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