Second cult member charged with sex assault

A KING 5 investigation took you inside a bizarre Eastside cult.

Now we’ve learned of new criminal charges filed Monday against a member of the Tridentine Latin Rite Church.

Before they could convince a judge to issue an arrest warrant for a suspect, detectives had to do a very basic thing: Prove he exists.

In Court last November, 19-year-old Steve Belzak pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation in the first degree.

On Monday, King County detectives charged another suspect, 21-year old Michael W. Muratore, with child molestation.

Just like a third suspect charged in the case, Justin Kirkland, Muratore is at large.

After decades of running from the law and controversy in other cities, about 100 members of the Tridentine Church have lived for several years in obscurity in the suburbs east of Seattle.

All three young men are members of the Tridentine Latin Rite Church, based in the suburbs east of Seattle.

They’re all accused of repeatedly molesting a former church member, the 13-year-old son of a former church member.

ďThis doesn’t have anything to do with religion. This is children being abused. My son wasn’t the only one that was abused,Ē she says now.

Life as a Tridentine includes hours of prayers, strict discipline and no contact with the outside world.

The group is lead by the controversial Francis Schuckardt, who former members say considers himself the one true pope, though he has no affiliation with the Catholic Church.

After Belzak’s confession last year, detectives say church leaders blocked their efforts to hunt down the additional suspects, denying to detectives that Michael Muratore even exists.

Some young church members have no birth records or social security numbers, making identification difficult.

But detectives learned that Muratore’s family, who didn’t answer the door at their Renton home, received state welfare benefits for Michael a couple of years ago, proof of his existence.

Both detectives and the young victim’s mother remain concerned about the other young children, whose families are still in the grip of this mysterious religious sect.

ďThis has been going on for a long time. Since there were three people that abused my son, that just tells me it’s got to be deeper than just these three boys,” said the childís mother said.

We couldn’t reach the Muratore family for comment Monday.

Tridentine leaders have told us they’re not trying to obstruct justice, but that some members do believe the young victim is being coached by people who hate the church.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
KING 5 News, USA
Nov. 22, 2005
Chris Ingalls

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