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  Ex-Priest in Duke City Charged in Detroit Case

By Paul Logan
Albuquerque Journal [New Mexico]
August 28, 2002

3 Others Accused Of Abuse in 1960s

Ex-Roman Catholic priest Jason Sigler of Albuquerque is one of four clerics charged with criminal sexual conduct while with the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Wayne County prosecutor Michael Duggan issued warrants Tuesday for the arrest of the four retired or former priests.

Sigler, 64, is charged with multiple counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting a 12-year-old boy. The assaults are believed to have taken place at the boy's home in River Rouge, Mich., and other places from 1964 to 1967.

Assistant prosecutor Rebecca Tenorio told the Journal in a telephone interview Tuesday that the men who are charged "are master manipulators. They know how to manipulate these parents into trusting them and allowing children to sleep the night at the rectory or to go on vacations with them."

The others charged are Harry Benjamin, 60, of Virginia; Robert Burkholder, 82, of Hawaii; and Edward Olszewski, 67, of Florida.

Each man is accused of criminal sexual conduct involving a boy 14 or younger.

Tenorio said she wasn't concerned about Sigler and the others trying to flee.

"They've known that these cases have been investigated for months," she said. "If they were going to run, I'm sure they would have done it by this point."

Sigler, who was ordained in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been accused of sexually molesting minors in several parishes in Michigan and New Mexico.

Sigler was one of the priests named during the Archdiocese of Santa Fe sexual abuse scandal that surfaced in the early 1990s. Sigler left the priesthood in 1982.

Duggan said in Michigan, Sigler would tell the boy's parent he was going up to the boy's bedroom to bless him before he went to sleep. Instead, Duggan said, Sigler would allegedly perform oral sex on the youngster.

"This is such a betrayal of the trust and confidence parents have in priests," Tenorio said.

"And to take advantage of a child in their own home while the parents are in the house the gall of these people. The arrogance to think they could do that and get away with it."

The charges are unusual because the alleged crimes happened in cases dating from the 1960s to the 1980s, according to the prosecutor's office.

But the priests can be tried because they left Michigan before the statute of limitations ran out. Michigan's statute requires a criminal charge be brought within six years of the offense. But prosecutors say the clock was frozen when the alleged offenders moved out of state.

Sister Nancy Kazik, vice chancellor of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, issued this statement Tuesday: "The alleged abuse took place before he (Sigler) was affiliated with the archdiocese. We have no further information."

Sigler came to New Mexico in 1970. He was sent to the Servants of the Paraclete, at the time a treatment center for clerics in Jemez Springs.

He later served at several New Mexico parishes. Sigler pleaded guilty in 1983 to a charge of criminal sexual penetration of a minor in exchange for a deferred sentence in Albuquerque. He was accused of molesting altar boys in Albuquerque, Fort Sumner and Las Vegas, N.M., during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Tenorio said the extradition process could take weeks because there are "a lot of hoops" to go through.

Prosecutors nationwide have been reviewing diocesan personnel records to see if criminal charges should be brought against priests accused of sexually abusing minors. But so far only a few have fallen within the statute of limitations.

 
 

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