TV cooking queen Paula Deen has a shocking family secret – her brother-in-law, a Catholic priest, was arrested for sexual battery.
A sex predator sting operation in Savannah, Ga., led to the bust of Henry “Hank” Bowers Groover – the 56-year-old brother of Paula’s husband Michael – after he fondled the crotch of an undercover officer, according to police documents.
Groover was picked up on Nov. 17, 2003, at a seedy hangout where people meet and indulge in public sex. The bombshell arrest took place at the President’s Street Boat Ramp on the outskirts of trendy Savannah – less than five miles from the multimillion-dollar waterfront home where Paula and Michael now live.
“While conducting surveillance I was walking behind the restrooms when a subject, later identified as Henry Bowers Groover, walked out of the restroom and waved for me to follow him,” reported former Chatham County detective Yujean Foster.
“Groover walked to a heavily covered area of the walking trail and then stopped and unzipped his pants. He asked me my name and asked if I was from around here. Groover then said, ‘What do you like?’ and reached out and rubbed my crotch.
“I immediately displayed my badge and identified myself as a police officer, informing Groover that he was under arrest for sexual battery. Groover immediately began apologizing, saying that he was ‘sorry.’ “When asked what type of work he did, he stated that he was a Catholic priest.”
Det. Foster, now with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Dept., said that the boat ramp area where Paula’s brother-in-law was busted is a hotspot for sex crimes. “That park is a well known pickup area for people, mostly males, attempting to engage in public sex acts,” he said.
Authorities reduced the sexual battery charge against Groover to disorderly conduct on July 6, 2004. The incident happened four months before Paula, 64, and Michael, 55, wed, but in the seven years since then, it’s remained a family secret.
Sources say Paula, the owner of the Lady & Sons restaurant, prefers fans didn’t know about the family secret surrounding Groover, the man she describes as her “spiritual adviser” in her memoir, ‘Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin’.
“Paula is badly embarrassed by the arrest,” a family friend said. Groover is now a priest at Our Lady of Pompeii Holy Catholic Church in Tickfaw, La. When contacted about the arrest, he chose not to comment.
Concluded the family friend: “Paula’s image means everything to her, and she’d be mortified if fans knew the truth.”
Image credit to Judy Eddy / WENN.com