Nebraska Man Sues Diocese over Alleged Boys Ranch Abuse

Associated Press State & Local Wire
November 19, 2004

An Omaha, Neb., man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Rapid City, claiming he was molested and kidnapped by a boys home priest in the 1960s.

Gerald P. Pecoraro's complaint, filed Wednesday in Rapid City, seeks at least $75,000 from a jury.

According to the lawsuit, Pecoraro's father ran a bar in Omaha in the 1960s and raised money from the liquor industry for the Rev. Donald Murray and Sky Ranch for Boys in far northwest South Dakota.

Murray was the ranch director and has since died. The ranch is still open.

In July 1965, when Pecoraro was 14, his parents sent him to Sky Ranch and appointed Murray as his guardian.

Pecoraro, 53, said in the lawsuit that Murray sexually assaulted him three times: in October 1965 and March 1966 at the ranch and in June 1966 while on a trip to Chicago.

Pecoraro said he did not invite the contact and tried to stop it.

After the third attack, he and two other boys told a counselor about the abuse, the lawsuit states.

"The counselor interviewed those boys, as well as others, and determined to his satisfaction that Father Murray had in fact sexually assaulted the youths," it states.

But Pecoraro said in the complaint that he was sent home, the counselor was fired and Sky Ranch was closed, but reopened weeks later with Murray still as the director.

Pecoraro couldn't explain his return to his father and "became estranged from his family and friends, his school grades suffered and his psychological condition declined severely," the lawsuit states.

In early 1967, Pecoraro was arrested for joy-riding in Omaha and eventually was sent with Murray to a private home in Belle Fourche. Once he turned 17, he ran away and joined the Navy, the lawsuit states.

Pecoraro said in the lawsuit that he suffers from serious psychological problems as a result of the abuse, including paranoia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The problems caused drug and alcohol addictions, suicide attempts and kept him from holding jobs and having relationships with his own family and from getting married, the complaint states.

The lawsuit initially was filed in Nebraska. A judge dismissed it but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August 2003 that Pecoraro could pursue it. However, the court said it could only proceed against Sky Ranch, not against the diocese.

Now the case has been filed in federal court in South Dakota and the diocese is listed as the only defendant.

Lawyers involved in the case could not be reached or did not return requests for comment.


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