Scottsdale Police Knew of Sexual Abuse Allegation against Priest

By Michael Clancy
Arizona Republic
July 1, 2011

Scottsdale police were aware of an abuse allegation against a Catholic priest two years before the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix was told about the accusation.

Scottsdale police spokesman David Pubins said a family member notified police that the alleged victim, David M. Pain Jr., may have been sexually abused while a member of St. Maria Goretti Church, where the Rev. Jack Spaulding was pastor, in 1985 or so.

Police did not pursue an investigation because Pain, by then an adult, would not cooperate despite numerous police efforts to contact him. As a result, authorities are not pursuing a criminal case against Spaulding.

Pubins said the diocese never officially notified police that they had deemed the allegation credible.

Church officials suspended Spaulding from his duties as pastor of St. Timothy parish in Mesa last week.

The alleged victim, Pain Jr., was shot to death in June 2010 by his father, David M. Pain Sr. The victim was 38 years old. Prosecutors did not charge the elder Pain in the death, which was ruled self-defense.

Pubins said a family member notified police about the possible abuse in 2008, two years before the son's death.

According to the diocese, the allegation was made to them in an August 2010 letter from David M. Pain Sr., two months after the son was killed.

Pain Jr. led a troubled life, afflicted by drug abuse and numerous scrapes with police, Spaulding's attorneys say. He was imprisoned in Arizona from 1990 to 1996, after a conviction for armed robbery and burglary. The obituary for Pain Jr. says, "David tried very hard to battle his drug addiction and unfortunately didn't succeed."

Spaulding's civil lawyer, Don Wilkinson, said the elder Pain apparently blames Spaulding for his son's troubles. He added that his research indicated the younger Pain was in trouble even before Spaulding arrived at St. Maria Goretti in 1983. Wilkinson provided no details.

Pain Sr. could not be reached for comment. The son's history with drugs and his prison record are typical indicators of abuse, said clergy abuse expert Patrick Wall. Wall, a former priest who works for a lawyer who has represented victims in California, said most abuse victims exhibit psychological issues that often show up in abuse of drugs or alcohol, and they often end up in prison. "They turn to some kind of chemical to dull the pain," Wall said.

The priest's canon lawyer, the Rev. Michael Sullivan, said the diocese may have violated the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by taking so long with the investigation, which took 10 months. Wall agreed, noting an investigation of a charge's credibility usually is completed within days.

Through its spokesman, Rob DeFrancesco, the diocese contended it followed the charter thoroughly. It took so long to determine credibility, he said, because the case was complex.

Diocese efforts included notifying the Maricopa County Attorney's Office after the diocese concluded the allegation was credible. Jerry Cobb, spokesman for the office, said the office received the notification but would not pursue the matter because it leaves investigations to police.

DeFrancesco said several factors played into the length of the investigation.

After the diocese determined that the time frame was generally correct, it hired an investigator, a former FBI agent. According to DeFrancesco, the unidentified investigator interviewed 14 people, some of them difficult to locate. He contacted Scottsdale police, who told him detectives previously had been notified of the accusation and were unable to conduct an investigation. He also contacted San Diego police because the alleged abuse might have taken place during a California trip, but they also declined to investigate.

DeFrancesco said Spaulding was notified after the diocese's investigator "put together a reasonably reliable timeline and a reasonably reliable understanding of the underlying facts."

That took six months, and Spaulding was given an opportunity to rebut the allegation.

Ten months after receiving the allegation, the nine-member Diocesan Review Board, which advises the bishop in abuse issues, determined unanimously that the allegation was credible.

The diocese said the allegation involved incidents that may have taken place more than 25 years ago, or around 1985.

Wilkinson said the diocese has not been forthcoming with complete information about the accusation or the investigation.

The alleged victim's death may have complicated matters.

Wilkinson said a diocese official told him it was the first time an accusation had come in from a relative on behalf of a dead victim. "They don't know how Rome handles a situation like this," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said the diocese investigation "did not go as deep as it should have." The elder Pain changed his story to comply with the diocese's timeline, Wilkinson said, adding the diocese will not provide him or his legal team with any documents or testimony related to the case.

Spaulding's canon lawyer, Sullivan, said, "There was not enough information to be convincing to me that anything took place."

Sullivan, who would defend Spaulding in a Vatican investigation, said he has not been notified that the information has been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles abuse matters.

Spaulding, 67, would not speak to the media, his attorneys said.

Spaulding is well-known in the diocese after serving as priest at four different churches, his outreach to disabled Catholics, and his belief that he could channel teachings from Jesus and Mary.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.