Defense Questions Use of Play Therapy in Sex Abuse Charge for Ex-ewtn Host
By Greg Garrison
May 26, 2016
|David Stone, 55, 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. (Screenshot from the EWTN program 'Life on the Rock)|
The defense in the trial of former EWTN TV talk show host David Stone opened today with a witness who cautioned against using 'play therapy' as the main method of determining a sexual abuse allegation.
Stone, 55, formerly known as Father Francis Mary Stone when he hosted the TV show "Life on the Rock," was suspended from his religious order and placed on long-term leave of absence at EWTN after he fathered a child with another EWTN employee, who was fired.
Stone 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.
Licensed clinical psychologist Alan Blotcky testified for the defense on Thursday that play therapy can be unreliable in determining sexual abuse and should be just one tool among many in determining whether abuse occurred. Play therapy involves the use of toys to help a child recall and explain what happened to him.
"Play therapy is one way of getting information," Blotcky said. "It's helpful but not sufficient. There are lots of pieces of the puzzle."
The prosecution presented two therapists on Wednesday who testified they used play therapy to determine that Stone's son had been sexually abused.
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. After play therapy sessions, she notified the Department of Human Resources of possible sexual abuse.
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. She also used play therapy in determining that sexual abuse may have occurred.
Stone's attorneys are arguing that the allegations of abuse are false and are being used to gain advantage in a custody dispute between Stone and the mother of the child, Christina Presnell.
The relationship between Stone and Presnell started when she was 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.
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.