'Dad hurts me': therapist says priest's son said they played 'The Butt Game'
By Greg Garrison
May 25, 2016
|David Stone, 54, formerly known as Father Francis Mary Stone, was host of the TV program "Life on the Rock" on Eternal Word Television Network. He fathered a child born in 2008. The mother was fired from EWTN and Stone was put on long-term leave of absence, according to Jefferson County court documents.|
The child therapist who initiated an investigation of child abuse against a Birmingham Catholic priest testified today in Jefferson County Court that the priest's son told her his father abused him.
Another therapist who interviewed the child offered similar testimony. And the boy took the stand himself.
A trial began Monday for David Lawrence Stone, a Catholic priest and former EWTN TV host who was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexual abuse of a minor under 12. The minor he is charged with sexually abusing is his own son, now eight years old. Stone has been embroiled in a custody battle.
Stone, 55, formerly known as Father Francis Mary Stone, was host of the TV program "Life on the Rock" on Eternal Word Television Network.
Leah Waller, a therapist at Wellspring Christian Clinic, said the child was brought to her for counseling because he had anxiety about going to visitation with his father in 2012.
"The anxiety was very high about going to visit Dad," Waller said. "He said, 'Dad hurts me.'"
Through game-play using toy dinosaurs representing the boy and his parents and Legos representing the child's father's home and his mother's home, Waller asked the boy to explain what happened when he went to visit his father.
He first described watching television, using a dinosaur representing his father and a baby dinosaur representing himself. He then described bath time, and showed the two figures rubbing their bottoms together in what the child described as "The Butt Game."
Waller said she notified the mother and said he needed further counseling sessions.
"That was concerning," Waller said of the child's description of "The Butt Game."
In the child's next counseling session, he again did game play in which he described visiting his father, who he said he put his finger in his butt while the boy was lying in bed.
Waller said she is required by law to report suspected abuse to the Department of Human Resources and she filed a report. "I stated to the mom that I was reporting abuse to DHR," Waller said.
She wrote a letter to DHR saying that the boy's visits to his father should be supervised. "If he was going to have visits to his father, they needed to be supervised," Waller said.
Another therapist also testified later on Tuesday that she interviewed the child and he made allegations of abuse against his father.
Cyndi Abercrombie, forensic interview specialist for The Prescott House, a children's advocacy center, said that she interviewed the child on June 20, 2013, when he was five years old.
Abercrombie said the child told her that while he was sleeping, his father would put his finger in his butt. She asked him to draw on a diagram where his father touched him.
Prosecutors then showed a video recording of the interview to jurors.
Boy testifies in court
The child also appeared on the witness stand and pointed out his father. Judge Clyde Jones asked if the boy knew why he was there. Referring to his father, he said, "He hurt me." Jones gave the boy two toy soldiers and the boy used the two toys to demonstrate where his father put his hand on him.
Stone's attorneys have argued that the allegation of child abuse is false. Stone has been in a lengthy custody battle with Christina Presnell, the mother of his child.
The relationship between Stone and Presnell started when she was working for EWTN. Presnell worked as a human resource coordinator for EWTN. She met Stone in 1998, went to confession with him as her priest and considered him her spiritual adviser, then began a sexual relationship with him in 2001. They kept the relationship secret, but were discovered when she became pregnant. EWTN fired Presnell in 2008 and Stone was put on a long-term leave of absence.
Stone no longer is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the order of priests founded in 1987 by Mother Angelica, who also founded EWTN. Stone no longer lives at the Annunciation Friary in Irondale.
Stone said after the first day of the trial that he is innocent and he wants to pursue custody of his son.