Priest Gave Girl Rings, Police Say

By Joseph Sjostrom
Chicago Tribune
May 7, 1987

A Woodridge priest charged with sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl who lived in his parish had purchased two engagement rings for the girl and opened a bank account in her name, according to investigators.

Rev. Edward A. Stefanich, who is free on $100,000 bond, appeared Wednesday in Du Page County Circuit Court before Judge John J. Nelligan. His case was continued to May 29.

Stefanich, 48, pastor of St. Scholastica Catholic Church, was arrested in February and charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly having sexual contact with the girl last August and September.

A Woodridge police spokesman said Stefanich had bought two rings for about $1,900. He also deposited about $800 in a bank for the girl, the spokesman said.

The girl's parents discovered her relationship with the priest by reading her diary, the spokesman said. Stefanich learned of the discovery and told the parents he planned to marry the girl when she reached 18, the spokesman said. The Catholic Church does not permit priests to marry.

The parents took their information to police, and Stefanich was arrested two days later. He was indicted by a Du Page County grand jury and has pleaded innocent.

After his arrest, Stefanich was relieved as pastor of St. Scholastica. The Joliet Diocese has declined to reveal where he is living.

The diary has been turned over to the Du Page County state's attorney, investigators said. Authorities said they have subpoenaed records from the McDade & Co. store in Westmont where Stefanich reportedly bought the rings.

When police arrested Stefanich, they found 16 handguns, rifles and shotguns in the rectory near St. Scholastica, 7800 Janes Ave. No charges were filed in connection with the guns because Stefanich holds an Illinois firearm owner's identification card, police said.

The girl told police about the guns before the arrest, but other priests living in the rectory said they were unaware that the weapons were kept there.


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