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  Abuse Settlement May Be Record
Archdiocese Will Pay $1,675,000, Lawyer Says

By William C. Lhotka
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 21, 2004

The Archdiocese of St. Louis agreed to pay $1,675,000 to a St. Louis family whose son was sexually abused over a three-year period by a Catholic priest. The settlement could be the largest involving the church in the area.

Robert F. Ritter, the attorney for the family, confirmed that he and attorneys for the church reached the settlement on Tuesday in a civil lawsuit that has been pending for about two years in St. Louis Circuit Court.

The Rev. Gary P. Wolken, 38, was arrested in 2002 and, authorities said, admitted he had molested the child between August 1997 and July 2000 when he was a baby sitter for the boy - the son of a family friend.

Wolken pleaded guilty in December 2002 to two counts of statutory sodomy and six counts of child molestation. The child was in kindergarten when the abuse began.

In February last year, St. Louis County Circuit Judge John F. Kintz sentenced Wolken to 15 years in prison. At the sentencing, a family counselor read statements from the father, mother, sister and the victim.

The boy's father wrote what happened "has challenged our faith and belief not only of the church but of society as well." The victim, then 10, said he was being teased at school, was having trouble adjusting to life, was getting counseling and had lost Wolken as a friend.

After Wolken's sentencing last year, prosecutor Rob Livergood said that another person had come forward. That person said Wolken had molested him more than 20 years ago when he was 5 years old and Wolken was about 15, Li vergood said.

 
 

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