Priest Pleads Guilty of Molesting Boy
He Faces Wide Range of Punishment: from Probation to Life in Prison

By William C. Lhotka
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 17, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty Monday of molesting a young boy while baby-sitting in Ballwin, and faces a sentence that could range from probation to life in prison.

That extreme range of punishment resulted from a "blind plea" deal in which the Rev. Gary P. Wolken, 37, agreed to admit the crimes, and St. Louis County prosecutors agreed not to make any recommendation about punishment.

Circuit Judge John F. Kintz set sentencing Feb. 28 on two counts of statutory sodomy and six counts of child molestation. The maximum would be two life terms plus 42 years in prison, and fines up to $30,000.

Wolken abused the boy, now 10, from August 1997 to July 2000, according to the charges.

At Monday's hearing, prosecutor Rob Livergood read each count of the indictment and described the sexual and physical actions Wolken took with the boy, who was in kindergarten when the abuse began.

After Livergood's recitation, Kintz asked the defendant if the state's allegations were "true and correct."

"Yes, sir," said Wolken, who was removed in March as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in St. Louis and suspended.

The sexual abuse did not extend to any parishioners or students at the parish, officials said.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis suspended Wolken and triggered an investigation by Ballwin police after it learned about the allegations.

After his hearing, Wolken quickly left the courthouse with relatives. His attorney, J. Martin Hadican, said the former priest was in rehabilitation treatment at a private center in St. Louis County.

Wolken wrote a letter to parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows on March 25 explaining his suspension and removal.

The church had already been rocked by the removal three weeks earlier of its pastor, the Rev. Michael Campbell, as a result of an archdiocesan review of 13-year-old allegations of past sexual abuse.


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