Former Ewtn Priest Calls Sex Abuse Allegations a "Scheme" by Mother of His Child
By Greg Garrison
May 27, 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)|
A former EWTN priest and TV personality who hosted a talk show for youth from 2001-2007 called the allegations that he sexually abused his son a "scheme" by the mother, who denied him further visitation after saying the child told her of improper touching.
"I know absolutely that this was not true," David Stone testified today about claims he sexually abused his son. "It was some kind of scheme going on."
Stone, 55, said he moved to Birmingham in 1990 and lived at the Annunciation Friary in Irondale as he served as a Franciscan friar and studied to become a priest. He was ordained as a priest in 1998, he said.
Stone met the mother of his child, Christina Presnell, in 1998. She began work at EWTN in about 2002 and attended Mass at the EWTN chapel with her children. Stone said under questioning he may have invited Presnell to his ordination service; he was not sure.
The two of them gradually become close friends, he testified. "It was organic, natural," he said. "We had a good friendship."
By 2006 or 2007, that relationship had become sexual, although they had been "passionate" before that, he said.
"We would be passionate with one another, but every time we would be passionate it wasn't a conjugal act," Stone said.
Deputy District Attorney Sarah Beth Eldridge asked Stone if their relationship was inappropriate, since as a priest he took a vow of celibacy.
"Yeah, it probably was," Stone said. "I wouldn't deny that."
She asked if he continued to do confessions and spiritual guidance while he was having a sexual relationship with Presnell. He said yes. He said he and Presnell talked about getting married.
"It was a healthy human relationship," Stone said. "You're naturally talking about your hopes and dreams for the future."
In 2007, Presnell became pregnant. Eldridge asked if Stone was surprised even if he knew that it was possible she would get pregnant. "It was still a shocker, yes it was," Stone said.
Presnell gave birth to their son in 2008. Stone said he decided to leave the priesthood. "I wanted to be a dad and embrace my son," he said.
Stone, 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 it became known he had fathered the child. Presnell was fired from EWTN.
After the child spent a weekend visitation with Stone in 2012, the child complained to his mother that his father hurt him by putting his fingers in the child's anus. The mother then refused to allow the next scheduled visitation.
Two separate therapists testified this week that their interviews with the child revealed possible sexual abuse.
Stone was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexual abuse of a minor under 12. The son is now 8, and testified in court on Wednesday. One of the boy's older half-brothers also testified Thursday that Stone had improperly touched him, trying to unbuckle his pants. In his testimony today, Stone said that was a false allegation.
Stone's attorneys have argued that the allegations of Stone abusing his son are false and are being used to gain advantage in a custody dispute between Stone and Presnell.