Woman, 3 Men Claim Priest Abused Them in Collinsville, Edwardsville Hotel Rooms

By Beth Hundsdorfer
Belleville News-Democrat
January 13, 2009

EAST ST. LOUIS — Three central Illinois men and a woman want a federal jury to hear their lawsuits against a former priest who they claim molested them nearly 30 years ago in Collinsville and Edwardsville hotel rooms, as well as properties owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Shane Perry, Matthew McCormick, William Goebel and Angela Ohl-Marsters filed suit against Rev. Robert Johnston and the St. Louis Archdiocese in Madison County last year, but the cases were recently moved to federal court.

Attempts to reach Johnston and the archdiocese officials were not successful.

They were introduced to Johnston by their parish priest, Rev. Norm Goodman, the suits stated.

Perry, 38; Goebel, 35; Ohl-Marsters, 42; and McCormick, 39; allege in their suits that Johnston, now 71, molested them for three years, between 1979 and 1982, while they attended St. Maurice's Catholic Church and School in Morrisonville, near Taylorville.

The plaintiffs allege Johnston fondled and sodomized them in metro-east hotel rooms and at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, as well as the archdiocese's properties.

"I don't like to try cases in the media," said Fred Nessler, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. "The complaint speaks for itself."

"The (archdiocese's) policies and secrecy and self-dealing known to Rev. Johnston enabled and emboldened him in that he knew any complaints about his conduct would be minimized and he would be protected from public disclosure," the suits state.

Johnston admitted to performing oral sex on a 14-year-old boy in 1978 when he was a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Valley Park, Mo. He was removed from active priestly ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis in December 2002 after the victim came forward, according to a 2005 press release by the diocese.

Johnston, who was defrocked in 2002, was one of six priests named in a settlement of $467,500 in separate litigation in 2006.

Johnston was arrested in 2006 for sodomy in Jefferson County, Mo., but the outcome could not immediately be determined Monday.

Johnston lives at the Regina Cleri Home, a retirement home on Watson Road in St. Louis. Attempts to reach Johnston at the home were not successful.

Two of the cases are pending before U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert. One is before U.S. District Chief Judge David Herndon. The other is before U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at or 239-2570.


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