Death Means No Closure
Priest's Accuser Had Long Wanted to Face Him in Court
By Glenn Smith
The Post and Courier [Charleston SC]
September 13, 2006
Nearly 50 years have passed since the priest walked into her Charleston hospital room, but the woman said she still has nightmares of his hands touching her, his lips kissing her face.
For so long, she wanted to confront the Rev. Raymond DuMouchel in a courtroom and tell a jury what had happened that day in 1957. But that hope died Sunday along with the man who had haunted her dreams all these years.
"I cannot believe he is dead," said the woman, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "But I am thrilled that he has gone to meet his maker. ... I cannot have any sympathy for him whatsoever."
The 81-year-old retired Catholic priest, who long denied he sexually assaulted the woman and two others half a century ago, had a long list of ailments, including dementia, which prevented prosecutors from bringing him to trial.
Prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges against him in November after doctors determined he would be unable to participate in his own defense, Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash said. He also had heart disease, liver and gall bladder problems, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and difficulty walking, authorities said.
"Medically, we were unable to go forward," Herring-Lash said. "He was not capable of even coming to the courthouse."
The case illustrates the difficulties authorities can face when allegations surface decades later. In July 2003, Monsignor Thomas Austin Evatt, 52, died before he could stand trial on charges that he sexually molested a 9-year-old boy 25 years earlier in the rectory of a West Ashley church.
DuMouchel was 78 years old when police filed charges against him in November 2002. He was accused of fondling a 12-year-old girl on at least three occasions in 1955 at the Cathedral Grammar School on Queen Street. Another woman accused him of fondling her at the former St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Charleston between 1958 and 1959, when she was 17 or 18 years old, police said.
The third victim came forward in February 2003 and accused DuMouchel of touching her breast and kissing her against her will after she gave birth at the hospital in 1957. She was 16 years old at the time, police said.
That woman, now 65, said her doctor, hospital officials and the church knew of the allegations, but nothing happened to DuMouchel. He was allowed to move on to Florence, where the woman encountered him again two years later. She was sick in a hospital when the priest unexpectedly dropped in to visit the woman she was sharing a room with, she said.
"I looked up and there he was," she said. "It was horrible."
The woman said the episode colored her life, shaking her trust in men of the cloth and leaving her unable to establish stable relationships with men in general.
After leaving Charleston in 1959, DuMouchel served in various parishes across the state, including Greenville and Aiken. He retired in April 1999 and returned to Charleston.
Immediately after the charges were filed, Bishop Robert J. Baker suspended DuMouchel from performing priestly functions and barred him from wearing clerical garb.
Stephen Gajdosik, a spokesman for the Diocese of Charleston, had no information Monday on DuMouchel's status with the church at the time of his death.
Denis Ventriglia, a North Carolina lawyer who represented the victims, said the women came forward after so many years to seek justice and prevent other young girls from possible abuse. He said it took a great deal of courage for them to take that step, and they had fully intended to testify against DuMouchel before his health problems precluded that possibility.
DuMouchel never spoke publicly about the allegations. But his attorney, Frank Cornely, said DuMouchel maintained his innocence throughout the trying process.
"Obviously, it would be very difficult for anyone to have to deal with these types of charges," he said. "But imagine trying to piece together something that happened 45 to 50 years ago, and on top of that, being 79 years old when someone asked you to do that."
Cornely said he last saw his client around the first of the year, when he told DuMouchel that the charges had been wiped from his record. DuMouchel, who was living at a retirement home for priests in West Ashley, seemed pleased by the news, he said.
Although the woman from the 1957 incident will never face the priest in court, the two may cross paths once more.
"I may just go to his funeral," she said, "to make sure he is dead."
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or email@example.com
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