|Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse Makes First Court Appearance
By Veronica Gonzalez
January 11, 2010
A 47-year-old Duplin County priest charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy visited members of his youth group who lived in Brunswick County, and a parent of one of the youngsters let the priest stay over sometime last summer, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Edgar Sepulveda, who is charged with second-degree sexual offense and sexual battery with a 17-year-old boy, met with the youngsters at St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic Church in Shallotte, the office said Monday.
Additionally, Sepulveda also has visited the church to conduct marriage enrichment classes for members of the Hispanic congregation, said the Rev. Robert Ippolito on Monday.
Sepulveda, who said he would hire an attorney during his first court appearance on Monday, is accused of engaging in sexual acts with a teenager who is 17 now, said Brunswick County Assistant District Attorney Meredith Everhart. If convicted, Sepulveda could face between five and seven years in prison for second-degree sexual offense, a felony, she said. Sexual battery is a misdemeanor.
Sepulveda turned himself in to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office on Friday. On Monday, the sheriff’s office announced that allegations first surfaced against Sepulveda in Duplin County where an investigation is ongoing. On Monday, Duplin County investigators could not be reached for comment.
While Sepulveda, a Beulaville resident, has denied sexual allegations to the diocese, Frank Morock, a diocesan spokesman, stressed that the alleged offenses did not occur on church property. Sepulveda has been suspended by the diocese and is free after posting bond this weekend.
The suspension for Sepulveda, a Colombian native who was the pastor of two Duplin County churches and one in Wayne County, strips the priest of his ability to celebrate Catholic Mass, Morock said.
Sepulveda was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 9 after the diocese received a report of sexual abuse. Subsequently, diocesan officials met with the teenager and his parents, and arrangements were made to provide counseling, according to the diocese’s Web site. Sepulveda denied the allegation and pledged to cooperate with the authorities, according to the diocese.
The Diocese has a policy to inform the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys whenever an allegation is made, Morock said. Then the conference notified local authorities. “We don’t do the investigation,” he said. “The state conference looks at where an allegation emanates from and directs it down to the local jurisdiction.”
The Diocese said that Sepulveda had no criminal background when it was searched in 2004 and again before 2006.
Veronica Gonzalez: 343-2008 or Veronica.Gonzalez@StarNewsOnline.com
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