Sex Allegation Leads to Suspension

By Tim O'Neil
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 17, 2007

Larry Stukenholtz, choral director at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, was suspended with pay Friday while administrators review the accusation that he had sex with one of his high school students in California nine years ago.

"The college will make a decision about Stukenholtz's employment status upon the conclusion of the review of the relevant information," said Pat Crowe, spokeswoman for the Community College system.

Crowe said the administration informed Stukenholtz of the suspension Friday afternoon and that he soon departed the campus where he has worked since 2001. He could not be reached for comment.

The accusation has been public knowledge since June 2006 with the filing of a lawsuit in California by Sarah Gray alleging she had a sexual relationship with Stukenholtz in 1998, when she was 17 and a member of his choir at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. Stukenholtz denied the charge, calling it "ridiculous." On Oct. 5, the Catholic Diocese of Orange County, Calif., agreed to pay $6.7 million to settle lawsuits, including Gray's, which alleged that Stukenholtz and three other employees of high schools and parishes had sex with underaged girls during the 1990s. Gray, 27, is now a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

On Thursday evening, Gray attended a meeting of the Community College board of trustees and called for Stukenholtz's dismissal. Earlier that day, she and leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) delivered to college headquarters copies of a sworn statement by Patrick Murphy, president of Mater Dei, who said on Sept. 17 that Stukenholtz had resigned in 1999 after school officials determined he had "inappropriate sexual relations with a former student."

Crowe said the deposition was the "new information" that led administrators to suspend Stukenholtz. She said college lawyers will review all pertinent case information in California.

Before the trustees met Thursday, Stukenholtz said he couldn't comment but added, "The college is backing me completely."

Ron Stilwell, a professor of music emeritus at Meramec, wrote college administrators saying he never had seen anything in Stuckenholtz's conduct suggesting inappropriate contact with students there. Stilwell sent a copy of that letter to the Post-Dispatch Friday.

No criminal charges have been filed against Stukenholtz. On Oct. 17, Gray filed a complaint with the police in Fullerton, Calif., where she said Stukenholtz lived in 1998. A police spokeswoman said an investigation is pending.

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