Face of Morning Star Boys Ranch Testifies

January 20, 2010

[with video]

SPOKANE - He was the face of Morning Star Boys Ranch.

Wednesday, Father Joe Weitensteiner took the stand in the first of several lawsuits that allege widespread abuse at the South Hill facility.

Attorneys for plaintiff Kenny Putnam say this civil suit, the first against Morning Star to go to trial, will expose years of abuse and neglect at the ranch for troubled boys.

And while the defense tried to paint Putnam as a troubled man, all eyes were on Father Weitensteiner.

77-year-old Father Weitensteiner has been involved with Morning Star on some level since it opened in 1956.

Wednesday, attorney Tim Kosnoff began going through almost everything that has happened since then.

Kosnoff went through the demise of the first director of Morning Star, Father Marvin Laboy, who would drink while on trips with boys and was later treated for alcoholism.

Then he went through what was perceived lack of boundaries; there were no rules against boys sleeping in staff apartments at Morning Star until the 1990's.

There were also no background checks on families who would sometimes house their children.

Then Kosnoff went through the brief period when he also was a pastor at St. Patrick's Parish in Hillyard.

He says a boy or maybe two would come to the rectory house and they would spend the night.

And then there is the case of defrocked priest and admitted pedophile Patrick O'Donnell, who was with Weitensteiner in the Boy Scouts and later brought boys to the ranch.

Weitensteiner will be back on the stand Thursday morning.

Plaintiff Kenny Putnam is scheduled to testify in the afternoon.


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