A Catholic priest has fled from Italian authorities just days before he was to be extradited to Arizona to face 13 counts of child molestation.

Joseph J. Henn was indicted by a grand jury in July 2003 as part the Maricopa County Attorney's Office's major investigation into decades of sexual misconduct by clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Henn, 57, is accused of molesting three boys — ages 11, 13 and 15 — between 1979 and 1981 when he was a priest at St. Mark's Catholic Parish in Phoenix from 1978-82.

Italian police arrested him last July while he was staying at the Rome headquarters of his religious order, The Salvatorians.

Henn remained under house arrest there while his lawyer fought the extradition request by the U.S. Department of Justice and Maricopa County.

Last Thursday, the Italian Supreme Court reaffirmed an appeals court's ruling calling for Henn's extradition and the Italian Ministry of Justice was expected to order Henn's transfer to U.S. custody within 45 days.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said Tuesday that Italian authorities were searching for Henn and have sought a warrant for his arrest from Interpol, the international police agency.