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  Molester's Wife Says She Loves Him Despite His Past
Ex-Priest Is Arraigned on More Abuse Charges

By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press
January 24, 2003

Before she met him, Jason Sigler was a Catholic priest who allegedly sexually abused dozens of boys in New Mexico and Michigan.

She didn't know it, and when she did find out, Anne Sigler says, it didn't matter. They've been married now for 20 years.

She clutched a rosary Thursday as she watched her husband, convicted in Wayne County as a sex abuser, arraigned in Flint on additional charges that he molested two boys in Flushing in the mid-1970s.

The former priest, wearing his inmate garb from the Dickerson Detention Facility in Hamtramck, where he began serving a one-year sentence just eight days ago, was formally charged in 67th District Court in Flint with six counts of criminal sexual misconduct. If convicted of the most serious of the charges, Jason Sigler, 64, could be sentenced to life in prison.

In an interview with the Free Press, Anne Sigler said she was a widow working in a New Mexico nursing center when she met Jason Sigler in the early 1980s. They struck up a friendship and she learned that he was a priest wrestling with leaving the priesthood and with vaguely described past troubles.

She said they married in a civil ceremony in 1982. Even as criminal charges surfaced in 1983 in New Mexico and publicity in subsequent years branded her husband as a notorious abuser of teenage boys, she said her love and commitment never wavered.

"I didn't feel it was necessary for me to know about something he had let go of," said Anne Sigler, 62, who has worked as a flight attendant and licensed practical nurse. "If he has a weakness, do you run away? You love him anyways. I wasn't going to abandon him.

"He went for help and sought help and has proven himself and proved to others that there is hope," she said.

Sigler said she believes therapy and the trust they shared enabled her husband to live a productive and trouble-free life during their 20-year marriage.

Last week, Jason Sigler told the Free Press that he had been abandoned by his birth parents and abused by male relatives when he was growing up in River Rouge.

"He believes and I believe him ... that he's capable of helping others," his wife said.

Jason Sigler's victims have said their families trusted the young priest and then they were manipulated and abused.

Sigler will remain in the Genesee County jail at least until his Feb. 5 preliminary examination on charges that he molested Tony Otero and his brother in the mid-1970s when Sigler was living at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Flushing.

"I can see his wife's point of view and others'. But their children were not molested by this priest. And they were not molested by this priest," Otero, a General Motors engineer now living in Macomb Township, said Thursday.

"He has to be held accountable at some point in his life — whether it's 20 years later is irrelevant. He's destroyed human lives... . And he's going to be held accountable now," he said.

Otero's brother does not want to be identified.

When Sigler was charged in New Mexico in 1983 in an abuse case, he received probation and was monitored. Catholic Church officials there settled multimillion-dollar lawsuits over the allegations.

In Flint, Judge John Conover, saying Sigler could be a flight risk and expressing doubts about the security of jails in Wayne County, set a $750,000 cash bond. That means Sigler would have to post the entire amount in cash or collateral to stay out of jail if he finishes his one-year Wayne County sentence before the Genesee trial is scheduled.

Otero said the imposition of such a high bond shows that "Genesee County means business, and they're going to take this very seriously."

Dan O'Brien, Sigler's attorney, said the fears of flight "are completely contrary to Mr. Sigler's behavior."

"There's no reason at all for this bond of this size," O'Brien said.

In Wayne County, prosecutors had agreed to a $5,000 personal bond for Sigler. He remained free and voluntarily traveled from his New Mexico home to court dates in Detroit.

Anne Sigler had come to Detroit on Wednesday evening, intent on visiting her husband in the jail in Hamtramck on Thursday. Instead, she learned of the new charges and went to the Flint arraignment accompanied by Redford Township businessman Joseph Maher, who heads a group that provides assistance to clergy accused of sex abuse.

Sigler was able to meet with her husband for an hour Thursday in the Genesee jail.

She said she doesn't fear public disapproval of her faith in her husband.

"I wasn't going to abandon him. He was abandoned enough in his life."

 
 

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