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  Priest Indicted on Sex Charges

By Roxanne Brown
Chicago Tribune
March 5, 1987

A Roman Catholic priest in Woodridge who was arrested last month on a charge of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in his church rectory, was indicted Wednesday by the Du Page County grand jury on four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Rev. Edward Stefanich, 48, was pastor of St. Scholastica Church, 7800 Janes Ave. in the suburb, where he oversaw nine other priests until he was relieved of his duties by the Joliet Diocese after his arrest.

Brian Telander, chief of the Criminal Unit of the Du Page County State's Attorney's office, announced the indictments. The grand jury reported them in open court Wednesday in Wheaton.

Telander said Father Stefanich committed acts of "sexual penetration" with the girl, now 15, on two separate occasions in August, 1986.

On one occasion, Father Stefanich is alleged to have abused the girl in an apartment rented by the victim's aunt, who is a friend of the priest's, according to Telander.

Father Stefanich, who had been assigned to the parish for almost 10 years, was arrested Feb. 13. The girl's parents went to Woodridge police earlier that week after learning from their daughter about the alleged incidents five months earlier.

Police did not explain why the girl, who until her graduation last June attended the parish elementary school, delayed telling her parents, or what prompted them to report the incident to authorities.

Woodridge Police Chief James Keys said after the arrest that, according to the girl's account of the incident, the priest used no threat or force during the assaults.

The girl also told police of an arsenal of 16 guns found in Father Stefanich's quarters in the rectory. The girl was able to tell police "almost exactly" where each of the guns were located, Keys said.

Father Stefanich had pistols, including a .45-caliber automatic and a .44 Magnum, semi-automatic rifles, pump shotguns, a semi-automatic shotgun and a large supply of ammunition. They also found other types of weapons, such as knives, police said.

"He was better armed than we are," Keys said. The guns were placed in chair cushions and other easy-to-reach places throughout the rectory, according to police. No charges were filed in connection with the guns because the priest has a valid Illinois firearm owner's card, according to authorities.

Other priests in the rectory were questioned after his arrest but told police they had no knowledge of the firearms or the incidents of sexual abuse. Police said they were unable to determine whether other children had been involved in sexual incidents with Father Stefanich in the past.

Bishop Joseph Imesch, leader of the diocese, said following the filing of charges against Father Stefanich, that "this is the first for me, and I'm sure the diocese. The professionals will be telling us what to do, we won't be telling them."

Father Stefanich, freed on $100,000 bond, will be arraigned on next Wednesday before Du Page Circuit Court Judge John J. Nelligan in Wheaton.

 
 

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