Mom Pleads to Be Spared of Abuse Details

By Linda Deutsch
Associated Press, carried in Monterey County Herald
February 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES - A tearful mother testifying in the trial of a priest who allegedly molested her sons pleaded with attorneys Tuesday: "Please don't tell me any more!"

Margaret Percival, whose three sons say they were molested by their beloved parish priest, Michael Wempe, was overcome by emotion several times as questions from attorneys gave her details she said she did not know about the abuse of her sons.

She dissolved in tears shortly after taking the stand Monday when the prosecutor asked if she knew that one son had turned to drugs including crystal meth. The court had to recess briefly while she sobbed.

On Tuesday, Deputy District Attorney Todd Hicks asked her if she knew that her youngest son had been orally copulated by the priest.

"Oh my God!" she gasped, her head falling to her chest as she burst into sobs. She indicated she had never been told.

"I cannot speak to my sons about this," she said. "We will never speak about this."

Percival said she had no idea her sons were being molested until the two older sons came to her in 2002 and revealed that they had retrieved repressed memories of their abuse.

"I was shattered," she said. "I was so full of guilt that this happened to my children. You're supposed to protect children and I failed to do this."

She said she accepted the reassurance from her older son that the youngest, Jayson, was not a victim and did not ask for details.

"I didn't want to know," she said. "Two of my children had just been abused. I wanted to hold on to the hope the third one was safe."

Later, she said, when newspapers reported that a young man had come forward with new allegations against Wempe, she did not connect it until an older son came to her with the news that it was Jayson.

"It was the worst day of my life," she said.

On cross-examination by defense attorney Leonard Levine, Percival said she has little memory and no records of the dates when Jayson went with the priest on outings which she helped arrange. She said she kept a diary until 1989 and then stopped writing down events in her life.

Wempe, 66, has admitted molesting Percival's two older sons but denies the youngest man's allegation, which is the only claim that could send him to prison. The statute of limitations for crimes committed against the older two has expired.

Levine has suggested that Lee and his brother Mark urged Jayson, now 26, to falsely accuse Wempe of molesting him after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected prosecution of cases such as theirs because they were beyond the statute of limitations.

Asked if she had conspired with her sons to make false allegations about Jayson, the witness said, "Absolutely not. Why would I do anything so vile?"


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.