3 women sue Parmadale, Catholic Diocese over sexual abuse allegations spanning decades

Cleveland.com [Cleveland, OH]

March 21, 2023

By Cory Shaffer

Three women filed lawsuits Tuesday that allege they were sexually and physically abused at a now-shuttered children’s group home that had been run by the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.

One of the woman who was at the Parmadale Children’s Village in the 1970s said in her lawsuit that the priest at the time, whom the document referred to as “Father Leahy,” sexually abused her at his cottage on the property while men he invited there watched.

The abuse described in the lawsuits spanned from 1961 to 2002.

The suits, including one filed by a fourth woman who said she was physically and mentally abused, named Parmadale Family Services; the diocese; its bishop, the Rev. Edward Malesic; Catholic Charities Corp.; and Sisters of Charity St. Augustine as defendants.

It also accused Cuyahoga County and the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services of failing to know about the abuse the children were facing at Parmadale.

cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reached out to attorney Bruce Taubman for comment. He filed the lawsuits on behalf of the four women.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the diocese said two of the women had reached out to it last year, and the diocese relayed their allegations and any other allegations they have received regarding the Parmadale facility to “civil authorities and offered counseling to anyone who reported having experienced abuse there.”

“The abuse of a child by those responsible for their care is a terrible sin, and the diocese takes allegations of such abuse very seriously,” the statement said.

The statement said that Leahy died in 2005.

A county spokesman said its lawyers will review the complaint when they are served.

The most detailed allegations contained in the lawsuits came from a woman who said she was sexually abused at the home from 1975 to 1977.

Her complaint said that staff of the home made her have sex with other children while the employees watched for their amusement. Employees also watched her shower, the lawsuit said.

The suit also said she was forced to go to Leahy’s cottage several times, where he sexually assaulted her. Leahy invited other men to the cottage to watch the assaults, the suit says.

The woman’s suit also says that she was constantly beaten by Sister Myra Wasikowski.

Staff members threatened to take away her visitations if she did not go along with the abuse, and they hid her mail from her to keep her from telling others about it, the suit said.

A second woman’s lawsuit said multiple Parmadale employees sexually assaulted her several times while she was there from 1999 and 2002. Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services placed her at the facility after she was declared a ward of the state in 1998 when she was 14, the suit said.

A third woman said staff at the home sexually assaulted her after she was placed in the home in 2000, when she was 14. She was sexually assaulted by an employee known as “Mr. P,” the lawsuit said.

She was thrown to the ground on multiple occasions, and staff members took her outside of church and slammed her head against a brick wall after accusing her of talking during service, the suit said.

The fourth woman said in her lawsuit that she was placed in the home in 1961 when she was 7. She said she was physically and mentally abused during her placement. She also echoed allegations for making noise during a church service, the suit said.

Employees also prevented her from speaking to her brothers during church services, force feeding her until she vomited and forcing her to pull her pants down and spanking her in front of other children, the suit said.

Parmadale opened in 1925 as an orphanage. It later became a home for troubled youth.

The diocese closed the facility in 2014, months after state authorities placed it on probation following allegations that an employee had sexually abused two children at the home. The employee, Cassondra Goodson, later pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual battery and was sentenced to 44 years in prison. Goodson appealed the sentence, and it was reduced to 12 years.

The Ohio Department of Youth Services removed four girls from the facility during the investigation and moved them to another facility in southern Ohio, citing their safety.

The property was demolished in recent years and is slated to become part of the Cleveland Metroparks West Creek Reservation.