LUCAS COUNTY, OHIO—In a decision which will have far reaching effects in clergy abuse cases and eerily issued just days before Halloween, the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Ohio has reinstated a 2005 lawsuit involving alleged satanic rituals against a Toledo priest who was convicted last year in the 1980 murder of a nun.
Roman Catholic Gerald Robinson, now 69, was convicted in May, 2006, of the murder of a 71-year-old nun and was sentenced to 15 years to life. His request to remain free pending appeal was denied.
Now his attorneys have filed a new motion, asking the appellate court for the convicted murderer to be released on a $250,000 property bond with electronic monitoring while his appeal is pending, saying that the appeal has languished for 19 months.
A Toledo woman had brought the civil litigation against Robinson anonymously, suing as Survivor Doe with her husband, Spouse Doe, claiming that Robinson was part of a group that had repeatedly raped her and tortured her in satanic rituals when she was a child. The woman is now in her 40’s. In addition to Robinson, defendants are Gerald Mazuchowski, a former lay minister; the Toledo Catholic Diocese; St. Adalbert Parish where she alleges the abuse occurred and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
She alleges that Robinson, Mazuchowski and other men dressed in nuns’ habits, used women’s names and engaged in bizarre rituals, victimizing her.
A lower court had dismissed her claim, saying it was barred under the statute of limitations.
The Appellate Court has reversed that decision and reinstated the woman’s claim, saying that her claim isn’t time barred because she couldn’t identify her alleged abusers due to repressed memory “until she saw their faces/names from the television and newspaper reports about them” in 2004 and 2005 at the time Robinson was arrested and charged with the nun’s murder.
Robinson, then 43, a Roman Catholic chaplain at Mercy Hospital where Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was the caretaker, was arrested in April 2004 and charged with the nun’s murder.The nun’s body was found on the floor of the sacristy where she had gone to prepare the chapel for Holy Saturday Mass. She had been strangled and stabbed between 27 and 32 times in the chest and neck, wounds which formed what investigators say resembled a cross. She was covered with an altar cloth and her undergarments had been pulled down around her ankles but investigators have said she was not sexually assaulted.
The priest was a suspect early in the case because he was seen near the chapel at the time of her death. Although a sword-shaped letter opener was found in his room that prosecutors believe was the murder weapon, he was not arrested. However, the case remained unsolved for over 23 years.
In December 2003, a woman reported to police that she had been sexually abused by a group of priests who performed Satanic rituals and held sadomasochistic orgies. Following the woman’s allegations in 2003, a cold-case squad began reviewing the nun’s murder case again. Three other women also came forward and claimed they had been sexually abused in cult-like ceremonies involving altars and men dressed in robes between the late 1960s and 1986.
There have been allegations that church officials have tried to cover-up a crime. One of the women who came forward reached a monetary settlement with the church.
The civil case reinstated against Robinson is being brought by the woman who originally made the allegations against him.
In a letter to the Toledo diocese in 2003, the alleged victim detailed her allegations, describing being subjected to Satanic ceremonies in which priests placed her in a coffin filled with cockroaches, forced her to eat what she thought was a human eyeball and penetrated her with a snake “to consecrate these orifices to Satan”.She also reportedly alleged in the letter to the diocese that the group of priests killed an infant and a 3-year-old child, performed an abortion on her and chopped up dogs during the rituals.
The lawsuit alleges that Survivor Doe had been the victim of “clerical ritual and sexual abuse” as a child beginning when she was a student at St. Adalbert School by persons she later discovered to be Robinson and Mazuchowski and that the Diocese and others involved aided and abetted or covered up the actions of these priests and protected the priests while dissuading all such victims and their families from seeking action against them.
Survivor Doe specifically alleges that the crimes began to occur while she was attending St. Adalbert from 1968 through 1972. She alleges she was kidnapped against her will and “held either against her will or by beguilement in the basement of St. Adalbert’s.” While being held there, she was used in elaborate, ritualistic ceremonies. The people perpetrating the crimes were dressed in nun habits and referred to themselves with the first name of a woman and then their own name. Robinson allegedly called himself “Mary Jerry” and Mazuchowski called himself “Carrie Jerry.” She has recalled suppressed memories of another yet unknown man who was referred to as Sue.
After the woman left St. Adalbert school, she alleges the abuse continued in a wooded area. Her mother, who also allegedly participated in the ceremonies, took her to them. The plaintiff says she was intimidated from disclosing the events of all of the satanic ceremonies at the time they occurred because the perpetrators threatened to kill her if she told, caused her to believe that she was Satan’s child, and demoralized her.
She also alleges that her early indoctrination in the Roman Catholic Church prevented her from realizing that these were crimes that had been committed against her. She further relied upon the indoctrination of the Roman Catholic Church and the representations of these appellants that these priests were “in good standing” and that defendants would protect children in the parish from any criminal misconduct. She alleged that she never could have thought that a priest could commit such crimes. Even after she realized that these acts were wrongful, she assumed that she was at fault. She further alleged that “even after [she] became aware of the criminal nature of [the] conduct, that knowledge alone was not sufficient to apprise her or put her on notice of [appellees] Diocese, Oblates, and St. Adalbert’s possible negligence in failing to protect her or of their possible involvement in a conspiracy to conceal that criminal conduct from herself and others.”
Survivor Doe alleges that she first recognized Robinson as “Mary Jerry” after seeing news coverage of his arrest or investigation reported on April 23, 2004. She says she recognized Mazukowski as “Carrie Jerry” after learning of his involvement in the satanic rituals through an investigative news story appearing in The Toledo Blade on Feb. 20, 2005.
The appellate court held that the only exception to the general rule pertaining to the one year statute of limitations has been in cases involving repressed memories of a child of sexual abuse. The appellate court found that in the case of Survivor Doe, she did not know who the perpetrators were until she recognized their face/names from the television and newspaper reports about them (it is not clear from the complaint whether it was the faces or only the nicknames that appellant recognized); the perpetrators successfully controlled Survivor Doe during the abusive years by threatening to kill her if she told, causing her to believe that she was Satan’s child, demoralized her, and including her mother in the abuse; the abuse psychologically impaired Survivor Doe to the extent that she did not immediately perceive or know that the conduct of the perpetrators was wrongful or abusive (the complaint does not set forth the time when Survivor Doe came to realize that a crime had been committed against her, and it is improper for the trial court to infer that it was before she was 18 years of age), and Survivor Doe never even considered that the perpetrators could be priests or that their conduct would be known to and protected by the Diocese because of her indoctrination in the Roman Catholic Church belief that priests are divinely chosen as representatives of God and the parish is a protector of children.
Therefore, the appellate court found that the trial court erred by dismissing the claims based on the expiration of the statute of limitations and the case has been remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.
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