Los Angeles
2 Ex-Priests Charged in L.A. Molestations
One of Them Has Served Time in Prison. They Are the Fourth and Fifth Former Priests to Be Charged by County Prosecutors

By Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times
November 26, 2002

Two former priests, including one who was already imprisoned for child molestation, have been charged with sexually assaulting minors in Los Angeles, authorities said Monday.

John Anthony Salazar, believed to be at large in Canada, was charged with sexually assaulting a male student at St. Bernard High School and an altar boy at St. Teresita Church in Los Angeles.

Salazar was convicted of molesting children in 1988 and served nearly three years of a six-year prison sentence. While on parole, he was hired by the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, where he worked for 11 years.

Matthew Michael Sprouffske, 75, was arrested at his home in Darien, Ill., on Monday afternoon and was being held in lieu of $200,000 bail. He was charged with four felonies, committing lewd acts with minors under the age of 14.

A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said the church had been advised of the allegations against Sprouffske, who was removed from the priesthood in April.

The spokesman said the church was unaware of the new allegations against Salazar.

They are the fourth and fifth former priests to be charged in Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley's investigation of criminal misconduct in the Roman Catholic priesthood.

Sprouffske was charged with crimes allegedly committed in 1955 and 1959. Salazar was charged with crimes allegedly committed from 1980 to 1983.

Sprouffske allegedly molested a female relative in the 1950s when he was assigned to Mt. Carmel High School in Los Angeles, said Deputy Dist. Atty. William Hodgman, who heads the Sex Crimes Unit.

"What this priest did warrants prosecution. This is not the oldest case we are prosecuting," Hodgman said.

Salazar, who resigned from the priesthood in May, was serving at a parish in the Diocese of Amarillo. He faces up to six years in prison.

He was sentenced in 1987 to six years in prison for molesting two altar boys at St. Lucy's Catholic Church in East Los Angeles. He plead guilty to two felony counts.

He was convicted of molesting the boys, ages 13 and 14, when he invited them to spend nights at his living quarters on the church grounds.

At the same time, he was teaching at the Santa Teresita School in Los Angeles.

After serving time in prison, Salazar was allowed to return to the active ministry by a bishop in Amarillo. He was hired directly from a treatment program for sexual abusers in New Mexico, where he was paroled.

He was last assigned to the Church of Holy Spirit in Tulia near Amarillo.

Hodgman said Texas authorities were helping to track Salazar. Law enforcement sources said Monday they believe that Salazar may have gone to Canada.

Sprouffske was a member of the Carmelite order. Salazar was a Piarist priest. Neither order returned calls for comment Monday.

J. Michael Hennigan, attorney for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said the archdiocese was informed in April of Sprouffske's removal from the active priesthood.

The Carmelite order informed Los Angeles Archdiocese officials that a previously reviewed and resolved allegation had been reexamined, Hennigan said.

The alleged victim, police said, contacted Napa police earlier this year, and the matter was referred to the LAPD.

The district attorney's office has already charged two former priests and one retired priest with multiple counts of child molestation.

All are awaiting preliminary hearings, where a judge will determine if there is enough evidence to order them to stand trial.

Former priest Michael Stephen Baker, 54, of Long Beach is charged with molesting a boy repeatedly from 1976 to 1981. Former priest Carlos Rodriguez, 37, of Commerce is charged with molesting an altar boy in the mid-1980s. Retired priest G. Neville Rucker, 82, of Los Angeles is accused of molesting 10 girls over a nearly 30-year period dating to 1946.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Police agencies across the Los Angeles Archdiocese, which includes Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, are investigating more than 70 former and current priests.

Los Angeles prosecutors may file charges in at least 10 other cases.


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