Maplewood police take new look at old clergy abuse cases

The Maplewood Police Department recently began digging into two inactive cases, which previously didn’t lead to charges, involving members of the clergy who were accused of sexual abuse.

With a similar lookback by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Twin Cities law enforcement recently, Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said the department wanted to ensure such cases have had a chance at a thorough investigation, if possible.

Schnell said the department began reviewing past reports in February, identifying any investigations involving members of the clergy that went stale, but could potentially be reexamined.

“We want to make sure we’ve done everything we can,” Schnell said. “What’s happening in St. Paul with their reviews, that’s really what prompted us to take a look. If there’s something for us to investigate, we’d certainly want to do that despite the fact that it’s an old case.”  

As of March 10, the department was still looking into two reports of sexual assault involving members of the clergy.

The department identified a case from the summer of 2004, where a pastor was being investigated for allegedly sexually abusing a foster child in Maplewood, according to Schnell. He said the investigation did not result in charges.

Another case from 2005 involved a priest, who would now be in his 70s and was reportedly affiliated with the Archdiocese. The priest was accused of “sexually fondling” a man who was then in his 20s, Schnell said. The incident occurred at the priest’s home, according to Schnell.

Police documents did not indicate if or where the priest was stationed then or more recently.

Schnell said the victim did not want to proceed with the investigation at the time, rendering the case inactive. The Archdiocese was consulted back then, Schnell said.

“For us, when we look at it, the only way you can determine the veracity of the complaint is through a full and complete investigation,” Schnell said. “When the victim discontinues their involvement, you can’t really bring that case through a full and complete investigation.”

Schnell said investigators are approaching the reviews carefully, considering if it’s legally possible to prosecute and if the victims would even be interested in proceeding. He said the department plans to consult with sexual assault advocates and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

“We want to make sure we plan (going forward with the review of these cases) as carefully as possible,” Schnell said. “We don’t want to cause more harm. That’s the No. 1 objective.”

He said, “At the same time, we want to be responsive, and ensure that everything that we can do is being done for the good of these victims.”

Schnell said it’s possible that cases could be reopened, but also possible that they remain inactive, depending on many factors, which include statutes of limitations and the victims’ cooperation.

He noted that limited information is being released at this point, due to the uncertainty in the statuses of the cases.

The Archdiocese says it would cooperate fully, if it were contacted about the Maplewood case.

“We do so with the utmost respect for victims and others who have been harmed by the illegal and immoral acts of some of our clergy over the past 50 years,” said Jim Accurso, an Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spokesman, in a statement.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.
 

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