Church: Case Reported to Cps

By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
May 4, 2010

The sexual abuse allegations leveled against former Dededo priest Raymond Cepeda were originally thought to involve a minor, according to the church, but it later was determined the alleged victim was at least 18 years old at time of the alleged abuse.

The Archdiocese of Agana on April 22 announced Cepeda had been removed from the priesthood last December following a church investigation "of serious allegations of abuse."

The fact the alleged victim was not a minor does not make a difference, according to the church.

"Either way, there's still a concern because of the Archdiocese's zero tolerance on any alleged sexual misconduct of any clergy," said church spokesman Deacon James Barcinas.

He said the alleged sexual abuse happened 10 years ago and involved a single person. "But it wasn't reported at all by the victim," he said.

According to the church policy for abuse allegations, suspected abuse must be reported to Child Protective Services or the Guam Police Department. The allegations involving Cepeda were reported to CPS, Barcinas said.

Linda Susuico, chief administrator for the Public Health Division of Public Welfare, which oversees Child Protective Services, yesterday said Child Protective Services initially received a report of sexual abuse involving a minor. But it later received additional information that the alleged victim was an adult, she said. She declined to say whether the additional information came from the church.

As a result, Child Protective Services forwarded the matter to the Guam Police Department, possibly last week, Susuico said. CPS does not handle abuse allegations involving adult victims.

As of yesterday, the Guam Police Department had not received any report, according to spokesman Officer John Edwards.

Although anyone can file a report, it's important that the alleged victim be involved, he said.

"Nine times out of 10 you're going to need a victim to substantiate the allegations," Edwards said.

As of last week, the attorney general's office was trying to determine its role in the church allegations. It had not received any referral or report, other than what was reported in the news after the archdiocese issued its press release, according to Attorney General Alicia Limtiaco.

If the priest's alleged victim already was an adult in 2000, the opportunity to pursue a criminal case likely passed years ago.

The statute of limitations is three years, or the age of 21 for those who claim to have been abused as minors.

"One of the factors that would make it difficult to make the prosecution move forward would be the statute of limitations," Limtiaco said last week. "Depending on when the crime or crimes occurred, and based on our current statute of limitations as it relates to sexual abuse, we may be prevented from prosecuting."

She encouraged anyone who has been abused physically or sexually to come forward and report it to law enforcement authorities. And it is "critical" to prosecutors that victims be available to testify, she said.

"Sometimes there may be a situation where a victim comes forward that may lead us to other victims or make reference to other incidents that may lead us to other victims. And we would certainly want to investigate that and move forward in that manner," she said.

The accused's occupation will not be a factor, she said.

"There is no special treatment that is afforded individuals because of their occupation or vocation in life," she said. "Because you are referring specifically to the clergy, there would be no special treatment that would be afforded."


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