Chester Man Who Alleged Abuse by Priests Has Died

Richmond Times Dispatch

July 21, 2008

A man who sued the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and other defendants in 2003, alleging two priests abused him decades earlier, has died.

Stephen Edward Kopalchick Sr., 55, died Friday at his Chester home. He was a former plant manager at Berry Plastics Corp., a deacon at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights and a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

He made news when he filed a $5 million suit alleging he was abused by two priests from 1962 to 1966. The suit alleged that officials of the diocese knew the two priests were pedophiles but only moved them to different positions when questions arose. Mr. Kopalchick said publicity about sexual abuse by priests in Boston in 2002 stirred memories of the molestation he endured.

A 1994 amendment to the state constitution extended Virginia's two-year statute of limitations for filing personal-injury lawsuits related to childhood sexual abuse.

But last year, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a Richmond judge's ruling that the extension applies only when the abuser is a "natural person," not the entity for which they work. At trial, Mr. Kopalchick's attorney argued that "person" can include corporations and entities such as the diocese.

A funeral for Mr. Kopalchick is planned for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.


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