City Detectives Link Ex-priest Living in NC to Sex Abuse Case

By Shawn J. Soper
The Dispatch
October 2, 2009

OCEAN CITY – An alleged child sex abuse case involving a former Catholic priest and an unidentified victim in Ocean City and other area towns dating back to 1977 resurfaced this week when OCPD detectives traveled to North Carolina to arrest the now 64-year-old suspect.

Earlier this spring, the Ocean City Police Department received a complaint of the sexual abuse of a minor. The alleged incidents were to have taken place in Ocean City between 1977 and 1982 and involved a former priest, later identified as Michael Lowell Barnes, 64, of Haywood County, N.C. At the time of the alleged abuse, the victim was a minor child.

Ocean City police began investigating the alleged pattern of sexual abuse on the minor and later obtained an arrest warrant for Barnes. This week, local police detectives, in cooperation with the Maggie Valley, N.C. Police Department located and arrested Barnes in North Carolina. As of late yesterday, Barnes was being held in a North Carolina county jail on a $400,000 bond and was awaiting extradition to Worcester County. He has been charged with one count of child abuse, one count of sexual abuse, sexual abuse course of conduct, four counts of second-degree sexual offense, and four counts of third-degree sexual offense.

While the investigation into the alleged incidents in Ocean City decades ago is still ongoing, it appears these allegations might be just the tip of the iceberg. In June, one of Barnes’ alleged victims filed a civil suit in the Superior Court of Delaware against the former priest and the Archdiocese of Baltimore alleging a long pattern of sexual abuse that began in 1977 when the victim was 12 years old and continued for several years.

The incidents spelled out in the civil suit allegedly occurred while the victim was a parishioner and student at the St. Clare parish in Essex in Baltimore County and included several incidents in Fenwick Island and Rehoboth Beach. It is uncertain if the victim who filed suit against Barnes and the Archdiocese in June is the same victim who initiated the complaint being investigated by resort police, although the time frame is nearly identical.

While the details involving the alleged incidents in Ocean City from 1977 to 1982 are unclear, the civil suit spells out a sordid and prolonged pattern of abuse carried out in Baltimore and in the Delaware resort towns including furnishing the minor with alcohol at age 12 and numerous sexual allegations.


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