Retired Priest Accused of Fondling Girls in 1950s

By Glenn Smith
[Charleston SC] Post and Courier
November 14, 2002

Charleston police charged a retired Roman Catholic priest Wednesday with sexually molesting two girls while working at city churches and a local hospital more than 40 years ago.

The Rev. Raymond DuMouchel, 78, is accused of fondling a 12-year-old girl on at least three occasions in 1955 at the Cathedral Grammar School on Queen Street. He is also accused of fondling a girl who was 17 or 18 years old on at least three occasions at the former St. Francis Xavier Hospital in Charleston between 1958 and 1959, according to arrest affidavits.

DuMouchel is charged with committing a lewd act on a child and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. Magistrate Jack Guedalia released DuMouchel on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond and restricted him to his home at the Our Lady of Mercy convent on James Island.

Detective Melvin Magwood said two women independently approached authorities in September with the allegations. The women, who both live in other states, came forward after reading an April 28 article in The Post and Courier detailing allegations of sexual and physical abuse by priests in Charleston over the past 40 years, he said.

"It had been bothering them all their lives, and the article really sparked them to come forward," Magwood said.

Magwood said he spoke to both women at length and tried to locate people who could corroborate their stories. He found a couple of people who knew DuMouchel in the 1950s, and they confirmed it was "possible that this could have happened."An ex-Marine and World War II veteran, DuMouchel was ordained into the priesthood in 1956. DuMouchel served as rector at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and as an assistant at St. Joseph's in Charleston and as chaplain at St. Francis Xavier Hospital. In 1959, he transferred to Florence.

Bishop Robert J. Baker has suspended DuMouchel from performing priestly functions and has barred him from wearing clerical garb, said Maria Aselage, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Charleston.

Frank Cornely, DuMouchel's lawyer, said his client is in poor health and recently spent two weeks in an area hospital being treated for congestive heart failure. He made arrangements for DuMouchel to surrender Wednesday morning to police, but has not been able to discuss the case at length with his client, he said.

"Today was the first day we knew anything about the charges, the dates or anything," he said. "I haven't had a chance to talk to him about whether he even has any recollection of this."

Cornely said he found it unusual that both women came forward at roughly the same time and that both were being represented by the same civil attorney.
Their attorney is Denis Ventriglia of Wilmington, N.C., who has handled numerous abuse cases involving the Catholic church.

One woman, now 58, told Charleston police that DuMouchel grabbed her breasts and rubbed his body against her while at the Cathedral Grammar School. The other woman, now 61, told police that DuMouchel fondled and kissed her after requesting that she be sent to his office at St. Francis Xavier Hospital, according to police reports.

After leaving Charleston in 1959, DuMouchel served in various parishes across the state, including parishes in Greenville and Aiken, Aselage said.
He retired in April 1999 and returned to Charleston, she said.

"Since that time, he has not had daily access to kids," she said, adding that no similar allegations have ever been brought against DuMouchel.

In addition to restricting DuMouchel to the convent, Guedalia ordered he get a mental health evaluation and barred him from contacting the victims or their families. He also pro-hibited DuMouchel from being in the presence of women under age 18 without adult supervi-sion.

DuMouchel is the second former Charleston priest to be arrested this year for alleged sexual misconduct that occurred years earlier. In May, Charleston County sheriff's deputies charged Monsignor Thomas Austin Evatt, 52, of Anderson, with sexually molesting a 9-year-old boy 25 years ago in the rectory of a West Ashley church.

The Diocese of Charleston, which covers the state of South Carolina, has acknowledged receiving allegations of sexual misconduct against 24 priests since the 1960s, 12 of whom were removed from the ministry.

Lawyers who have represented victims estimate that the Charleston diocese has paid more than $2 million to settle claims against priests.

Tony Bartelme of The Post and Courier staff contributed to this report.


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