Man Sues S.D. Home for Boys

By Joseph Morton
Omaha World Herald (Nebraska)
March 13, 2002

An Omaha man is suing a South Dakota home for boys and a Catholic diocese, alleging that a priest sexually assaulted and kidnapped him more than 30 years ago.

The plaintiff says he was 14 years old in 1965 when he first was sent to the Sky Ranch for Boys in western South Dakota. He claims he was assaulted several times there by the ranch's director, the Rev. Donald Murray, who has since died.

Bill May, a South Dakota attorney representing Sky Ranch, said the privately operated home for troubled boys has a zero-tolerance policy toward any form of child abuse or mistreatment. He said the plaintiff's allegations will be thoroughly investigated.

In the meantime, however, Sky Ranch will defend itself against the lawsuit, May said.

The plaintiff and another boy at Sky Ranch informed a counselor about the assaults, according to the suit, but nothing was done about them.

Two years later, in 1967, the plaintiff was arrested for stealing a car and eventually was turned over to Murray once again so he could go back to Sky Ranch, according to the suit. Murray did not take him back to the ranch, however, but rather to the priest's own home, the suit alleges.

The priest held him there for about a year, during which time the boy was not allowed to talk to his friends or family, according to the suit. Once he turned 17, he ran away.

Since then, the man has been unable to hold a job and has never been married, the suit says. He suffers from serious psychological problems as a result of the abuse, including paranoia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, the suit alleges.

The plaintiff claims it was January 2001 when he first discovered that the abuse was the cause of his psychological problems, which would mean the suit falls within South Dakota's three-year statute of limitations.

The diocese of Rapid City also is named as a defendant in the suit, which contends that church officials and the ranch should have known about Murray's tendencies and protected the plaintiff from him.

The diocese declined to respond to questions about the lawsuit or the priest named.

Murray served several South Dakota parishes before he founded Sky Ranch. He died in a small-plane crash in 1975.

Bishop Blase Cupich instead issued a written statement saying that in 1993 the archdiocese established policies regarding sexual abuse that made the protection of young people its top priority.

Cupich wrote that he affirmed those policies when he took over in 1998. He invited anyone who has suffered abuse by church personnel to come forward and report it to the church.

"Sexual misconduct has no place in the life of the Church and will not be tolerated," Cupich wrote.

Cupich also called on the Catholic community to support priests who faithfully serve the church.


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