Priest/Sex Scandal Hits Home

By Troy Laack
Sheboygan Press
June 29, 2002

A retired Roman Catholic priest who worked at parishes in Sheboygan and Fond du Lac is accused of molesting a 16-year-old boy 42 years ago.

The Rev. Donald A. Peters, 77, of W6244 Lake Ellen Road, Cascade, admitted to an investigator that he took nude pictures of the boy in the basement of a Lake Ellen cottage in 1959 and 1960, and that he took nude pictures of three other boys in Fond du Lac.

"My attorney has recommended that I don't say anything," Peters said Friday.

Jerry Topczewski, Milwaukee Archdiocese spokesman, said the victim came to the archdiocese with the allegations May 2. As a part of Project Benjamin, the archdiocese's new sexual abuse response program, Peters has been prohibited from public ministry since May 10, when the allegation was deemed credible.

The archdiocese forwarded a report to Sheboygan County District Attorney Robert Wells on June 17.

In 1993, the Sheboygan County District Attorney's office received an anonymous allegation of sexual assault by Peters, which was referred to the archdiocese. Peters denied the allegations then and retired, Topczewski said.

Restrictions prohibiting unsupervised contact with minors were enacted as Peters filled in at various parishes when their priests were sick or on leave from those churches.

Sheboygan County Sheriff Loni Koenig said authorities seized a computer from Peters' home Thursday. Authorities had not yet determined the contents of the computer.

"He does not recall any sexual contact with the individual; however, he admits that he did take photographs of that child at the time," Koenig said.

The victim told authorities that Peters fondled him on several occasions at Peters' father's Lake Ellen cottage, according to the affidavit in support of a search warrant.

"(The victim) said he never reported it because he felt that no one would believe him and that his family would be ostracized," the affidavit read.

"(The victim) further indicated that he had been shown slides of boys in various stages of undress by Father Peters on a projector."

Peters allegedly admitted to taking nude pictures of three boys and exposing himself to them while he served at St. Patrick's Parish in Fond du Lac, Koenig said. Authorities don't know who the St. Patrick's victims are.

Wells said all the evidence gathered by authorities is outside the statutes of limitations for any type of criminal prosecution. Authorities are hoping that other victims will step forward or new evidence will give them what they need for criminal charges.

"Historically, if an individual engages in that type of behavior, it's usually not an isolated incident," Wells said.

Peters worked at St. Clement's Parish in Sheboygan from 1950 to 1960, and 1977 to 1993; St. Mary's Parish in Hales Corners from 1960-1962; St. Patrick's Parish from 1962 to 1967 and from 1969 to 1971; Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha from 1967 to 1969; and St. Mary's in Sheboygan Falls from 1971 to 1977. Wells said Peters also did work with the Boy Scouts up until 1993.

Koenig said Peters recently sent a letter of apology to the man, now 58 years old, involved in the Lake Ellen cottage incident.

"The trauma that he had before has not gone away," Wells said.


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