2 Priests Admit Sexual Molestations

Associated Press, carried in Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
August 30, 1993

PEORIA (AP) - A high-ranking official of the Peoria Roman Catholic Diocese said two priests have admitted sexually molesting a young parishioner two decades ago.

The Rev. James Campbell, diocesan vicar general, told the Peoria Journal Star that the priests have admitted to allegations made by Kevin Richmiller, now 35, of Moline.

"As soon as I had information about these molestations, I contacted the perpetrators, and they did admit to the allegations" by Richmiller, Campbell said Saturday.

Richmiller said the Rev. William Harbert began molesting him in 1972 when he was 14 and that the Rev. Francis Engels, 57, molested him in 1973 when he was 15. Harbert now serves as a chaplain at a nursing home in Lacon, and Engels is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan.

Harbert declined comment Saturday, referring reporters to his attorney.

Engels said that Richmiller was older than 18 and that the sexual encounter occurred in 1976.

"There was one incident with him when he was over 18," Engels said. He said he met Richmiller in a bar in 1976 while Richmiller was attending Blackhawk Junior College.

Richmiller, who wanted his name published, said Engels' "memory is not very good. I was a minor at the time. I have had no contact with him since 1973. I never, ever met him in a bar. He is mistaken, sorely mistaken."

Richmiller said Harbert began a two-year period of almost daily molestations on Richmiller's 14th birthday in March 1972.

Another former parishioner of Harbert's, a 39-year-old Pekin man, told the Journal Star that Harbert molested him at the St. Joseph's Parish rectory in Pekin in 1969. Harbert was an assistant pastor there then.

The newspaper reported last week that three members of a Moline family, two brothers and a sister, also said they were sexually molested as teen-agers by Harbert in the 1970s. One of the brothers also said he was molested by Engels.

Vicar General Campbell said Engels has been treated for his problems and no longer is considered a risk. Harbert also has had therapy.


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