|Abuse Victim: Events of Week Have Begun My Healing, Finally
By John M. Jr. Jones
April 17, 2010
For Warren Tucker, the healing from an intensely painful period in his life is far from complete. But he believes it has begun, he indicated Friday in a lengthy telephone interview with The Greeneville Sun.
Tucker, 44, notified officials of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville on Wednesday that the Rev. William "Bill" Casey, a retired priest of the diocese who lives in Greene County, had molested him for some five years beginning about 1975, when he was a 10-year-old boy in a parish where Casey was the pastor.
Later on Wednesday, Tucker, who now lives in Jeffersonville, Ind., spoke with the news media in Knoxville about the allegations, but did not reveal Casey's name.
Bishop Richard Stika told a news conference that afternoon that he was deeply concerned about the allegations, had apologized to Tucker and his family, and had immediately suspended the priest who had been implicated from performing any duties associated with the church.
On Thursday, Bishop Stika announced at a morning news conference that Father Casey had acknowledged that Tucker's charges had credibility, and said he had permanently removed Casey, 76, from ministry.
"I want to assure you," Bishop Stika said in a written statement to the news media and the public, "that Father Casey has been removed from ministry and will never again function as a priest in the Catholic Church."
He told the press that Casey had said that the abuse occurred early in his ministry and that he had realized it was wrong and stopped. He was ashamed of the actions and sorry for them, the bishop indicated.
FILED STATEMENT IN KINGSPORT
Later on Thursday, Tucker spoke with the news media in Kingsport after filing a statement with the Kingsport Police Department concerning his allegations against Casey.
He plans to return to Kingsport in a couple of weeks for a full interview with a detective in the Sex Crimes section of the department.
Tucker said in the interview with the Sun on Friday afternoon that he also intends to file the six-page detailed statement with the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
He had originally planned to do so on Friday, he said, but the plans did not work out.
In September 2009, he said, he filed the statement with the Sheriff's Department in McDowell County, N.C.
There, investigators launched an investigation into the allegations, and they have reportedly turned the investigation over to Asst. District Attorney Marie Hartwell, in that county.
Tucker said he does not know whether formal charges will be brought by the district attorney's office against Casey, with a request for extradition to North Carolina, etc.
He said he filed the statement in North Carolina first because the statute of limitations on sexual molestation of a minor is unlimited in that state, whereas it is limited in Tennessee.
Because of those limitations, he said, he is doubtful that charges will ever be brought in Tennessee, but he added that he wanted to file his statement in this state anyway as a matter of record.
He explained that the incidents of abuse -- which he estimated to have been at least 50 over the course of some five years between the time he was 10 and the time he turned 15 -- occurred mainly in Kingsport and at a rural cabin belonging to Casey in Greene County.
The first incident, Tucker said, took place one evening at dusk in Casey's automobile behind the well known Netherland Inn in Kingsport. "I froze," he said Friday, "zombie-like."
Two of the molestation incidents, Tucker said, took place in McDowell County.
PLANS NO LAWSUITS
Tucker said that he chose to contact law enforcement authorities because he wants to see Casey held accountable to the law for his actions.
But even if no charges are ever brought, he said, he could accept it since the information has now been made public.
He emphasized that he has no intention of filing any civil lawsuits in connection with the situation -- for instance, against the Diocese of Knoxville -- as some others who have been abused by Catholic priests in other parts of the country have chosen to do.
"I'm not going to 'lawyer up,' he said. "That's not who I am. That's not what I'm about."
He stated that "the only thing I'm asking the Catholic Church for is reimbursement for my expenses to come to Knoxville and bring these charges -- gas, motel, etc.; and to reimburse me for the cost of therapy from August 2009 [to the present]; and to come up with a fair number for [the cost of] the therapy I will probably need for most of the rest of my life. And medication [related to the therapy and his condition]."
Tucker said that he has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by sexual abuse as a child.
CASEY'S MINISTERIAL POSTS
In the telephone interview with the Sun on Friday, he said that the abuse began when he was a fifth grader at the school operated by St. Dominic Parish in Kingsport, with which Father Casey was associated at the time.
According to the Diocese of Knoxville, he was the pastor at St. Dominic from June 1976 to August 1987.
Immediately prior to taking the post in Kingsport, he had served from June 1972-June 1976. as pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville and of St. Henry Parish in Rogersville.
Following his pastorate in Kingsport, he served from August 1987-July 1997 as pastor of St. John Neumann Parish, in Farragut, West Knoxville.
From August 1997-summer of 1999, he again served as pastor of Notre Dame Parish in Greeneville, and also of Good Shepherd Parish, Newport.
In the summer of 1999, diocesan records show, he retired from active priestly service.
DID NOT TELL PARENTS
Tucker said his parents were divorced from the time he was five, and he was living with his mother in Kingsport at the time the abuse occurred.
He said that he never told her at the time, nor did he tell his father, who lived in Louisville, Ky.
But, he said, as a result of the abuse situation, by the time he was almost 16 he had become impossible for his mother to handle.
He would not go to school and had become unruly to such an extent that his mother called the police and he was jailed for five days on a charge of truancy.
At that point, he said, his father came to Kingsport and picked him up. The truancy charge was dropped, and his father worked out legal custody of him.
He never missed a grade at school and graduated on time, he said. "He saved me," Tucker said, "and he didn't even know it."
He said that, just as he had never told his mother about the abuse, he did not tell his father.
Asked why, he said that he was ashamed and thought that, if he told his father, he might send him back to Kingsport.
Tucker said he told his mother about the incidents 10 years ago, when she visited him and his wife in Indiana, and told his father in June 2009.
HELP FROM SNAP
In the years leading up to June 2009, Tucker said, he pushed the memories of the molestation and the feelings of guilt and shame associated with it down deeper into his personality.
But as a result, he said, he became more and more self-destructive, including going through two marriages and divorces.
He noted that for the last 14 years he had been married to "a wonderful lady."
"Finally," he said, "this past June, I just couldn't take it any more. The memories, the pain."
He said he reached out for help through the Internet and discovered the SNAP organization, an acronym for The Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests, and contacted the late Ann Brentwood of the group's East Tennessee division, whom he called "a great lady."
"She listened to me, believed me, asked what I wanted. I said I want to be counted, I want him [Father Casey] to be counted. I want him to be held accountable for what he did.
"She said, 'OK. I'll help you.'"
WROTE OUT HIS STORY
That summer, he began seeing a therapist, he said, and wrote out his story in detail. On Sept. 10, 2009, he said, he took it to a detective at the McDowell County Sheriff's Department.
The detective suggested that he call Casey on the telephone and see if the conversation, which was recorded, brought out any incriminating statements.
Most of the 22-minute conversation was routine chitchat, he said, but at the end some statements were made that the detective considered important.
Tucker said that he thought that it was important for him to come to Knoxville and make his story public partly to give him personal closure on the abuse period in his life but also so that "other people who may be suffering in silence" can " hear my words."
PRAISE FOR DIOCESE, SMITH
He had praise for the response he has received from Bishop Stika and the Diocese of Knoxville.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "I have to say that the Diocese of Knoxville -- in particular Chancellor [Sean] Smith -- has been very genuinely helpful and concerned."
Referring to Chancellor Smith, he added, "I like him a lot. I think he is a good man... Most of my contact has been with him."
The response, he said, is "So far, so good. Time will tell."
But, he continued, if they continue with the way they are going now, they can become the model diocese for the country for the way these things should be handled."
How does he feel as the events of the week come to a close? he was asked.
"It's been a dizzying experience," he replied. "I don't know if 'glad' is the right word. I'm not happy about this.
"But it's necessary. It's important as part of my healing process."
"I'm certainly not happy," he continued. "I'm certainly not happy Father Casey has this illness, or dysfunction. But it is what it is, and I can only be responsible for myself.
"I hope that by doing this and by continuing therapy, I hope it will help me turn a page in my life, and at 44 years old, live out the rest of my years in a happier and more fulfilling way."
'WORKING ON FORGIVING'
As the interview drew to a close, Tucker said that he wanted to make a statement directed to Father Casey.
"I haven't been able to forgive him yet, but I'm working on it, and I'm hopeful about it. And I want him to know that."
He added, "I'm sorry for the pain that this causes the community of Greene County. I know that a lot of people like Father Casey... I'm sure he has a good side in addition to this dark side.
"But it is what it is. I wish it wasn't."
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