Alleged Child Sex Offender Fighting Extradition to Worcester

By Shawn J. Soper
The Dispatch
November 13, 2009

OCEAN CITY- Over a month after Ocean City Police traveled to North Carolina to help locate and arrest a former Catholic priest implicated in a decades-old child sex abuse case involving an unidentified victim in Ocean City dating back as early as 1997, the suspect has not been extradited to Worcester County to face a possible indictment on the charge.

Earlier this spring, the Ocean City Police Department received a complaint about the sexual abuse of 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. In early October, local detectives, in cooperation with the Maggie Valley, N.C. Police Department, located and arrested Barnes in North Carolina. According to police reports, Barnes was taken into custody and held in a North Carolina county jail on a $400,000 bond pending extradition to Worcester County to face charges related to the alleged incident.

However, well over one month later, Barnes has not been extradited to Worcester County and, consequently, has not been formally charged here. The victim’s attorney, Michael Reck, of Manley and Stewart in New York and Newport Beach, Calif., said this week Barnes has not been transferred to Worcester County and might be evoking health issues to stave of the extradition.

“He is fighting the extradition,” said Reck. “I hear that he is subject to some recent health issues. It seems to me that he is hoping to pass away before ever seeing the inside of a Maryland courtroom.”

According to a source, who rented an apartment to the suspect in Maggie Valley, N.C. beginning in April of this year, Barnes has had extensive health issues in recent months. The source said Barnes had quadruple by-pass surgery about a year ago and had two heart attacks in the last few months.

As of this week, Barnes has not been indicted on any of the charges including one count of child abuse, one count of sexual abuse, one count of sexual abuse course of conduct, four counts of second-degree sexual offense and four counts of third-degree sexual offense. However, a case number for Barnes has been established in District Court in Worcester County, although the file, and the application for the statement of charges, has not been made available to the public.

According to court documents, Barnes left the priesthood in 1988, but was employed by the Archdiocese of Washington as lay director of adult faith formation at a church in Rockville, Md. as recently as last January. It is uncertain when he moved to North Carolina, although it is known he rented an apartment in Maggie Valley, N.C. starting in April of this year.

While the investigation into the alleged incidents in Ocean City decades ago is still ongoing, it appears the alleged incidents in the resort 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.

“It is while the plaintiff was a parishioner and student in the Archdiocese of Baltimore that the plaintiff came to be under the direction and control of Father Barnes, who used his position of authority and trust over the plaintiff to sexually harass, molest and abuse him,” the complaint reads. “Such conduct was done for Father Barnes’ sexual gratification and was performed on the plaintiff without his free consent, as the plaintiff was a mere minor and, thus, unable to give valid, legal consent to such sexual acts.”

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 in Delaware. 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 the OCPD, although the time frame is nearly identical.

While the details involving the alleged incidents in Ocean City from 1977 to 1982 have not been made public, the civil suit filed in Delaware in June spells out a sordid and prolonged pattern of abuse carried out in Baltimore and in the Delaware resort towns. The civil suit also names the Archdiocese of Baltimore as a defendant because similar complaints against Barnes in the past had not been made public.

“The defendants had a duty to disclose to the plaintiff and parishioners, minors, parents, caretakers and others under Father Barnes’ supervision, control and apparent authority and guidance that Father Barnes in the past engaged in and/or was continuing to engage in sexually-related conduct with minors,” the complaint reads.


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