Donald W. Kimball, 62; Catholic Priest Defrocked over Abuse Allegations

Los Angeles Times [California]
September 17, 2006

Donald Wren Kimball, a former Catholic priest who once was a charismatic nationally renowned youth minister but was later accused of sexually abusing children in Northern California, has died. He was 62.

Kimball's body was found Friday in a friend's home in Windsor, Calif., about 55 miles north of San Francisco, Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Duke said. Police found no evidence indicating criminal activity, he said, but an autopsy was planned.

Kimball, a Santa Rosa native who was ordained in 1969, rose to national prominence in his early 30s with an award-winning radio show aimed at young people. The unconventional program blended top-40 pop music with Bible teachings.

He was accused of using his charm and popularity to coerce teenage girls to have sex with him. In 1990, after Kimball acknowledged having sexual contact with six young girls, church officials forced him to give up his youth ministry and suspended him from performing priestly duties.

Abuse allegations against Kimball first became public in 1997. Criminal charges were filed in 2000 — the same year Pope John Paul II formally removed him from the priesthood.

In a 2002 trial, Kimball was acquitted of raping a 14-year-old girl in 1977 but convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl in 1981. The conviction was overturned in 2003 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes involving children.

The two alleged victims each received about $120,000 after the church settled their civil suits against him.

During the 2002 trial, Kimball shoved a San Francisco Chronicle photographer's camera into her face, then grabbed the camera and threw it to the floor. Kimball was later convicted of felony assault and vandalism, and served prison time.

After the trial, in an interview with Connie Chung on CNN, Kimball denied the abuse allegations but said the vow of celibacy had "never made sense" to him.

Saying he was surprised that the priest's collar made him attractive to women, Kimball added: "I wasn't prepared for putting on that uniform, walking out into real life and discovering the number of women who were coming on to me."

Born Dec. 10, 1943, Kimball was an only child whose father was killed while serving in the Navy during World War II. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary in Mountain View, Calif., and graduated from St. Vincent de Paul High in Petaluma. He had no known survivors.


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