Documents: Stearns Priest Investigation File Destroyed in Routine Purge
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
November 19, 2013
The file containing details of the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by the Rev. Fran Hoefgen likely was destroyed in the 1990s as part of a routine purging of records from cases in which no charges were filed.
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall released two documents Tuesday from the state Department of Administration that showed that numerous adult and juvenile case files in which no charges were filed were ordered destroyed in two document purges, one in May 1996 and the other in February 1998.
Then-County Attorney Roger Van Heel was listed as the person reporting the document destruction to the state in one instance, and First Assistant County Attorney Patrick Strom was the reporting party in the other instance.
The county attorney’s office has case files dating back to the 1960s, said Mike Lieberg, head of that office’s criminal division, but those are files in which criminal charges were filed.
Strom signed a memo in October 1986 that indicated no criminal charges would be filed against Hoefgen. That memo was signed two years after Hoefgen admitted to performing sex acts on a 17-year-old boy who had been living with Hoefgen at the priest’s parish house in Cold Spring.
The boy had experienced family problems and had spent several weeks at St. Cloud Hospital before Hoefgen offered him a place to stay. The boy stayed at the parish house for several days before leaving.
The only statute applicable for consideration of charges at the time was for familial sexual abuse, Strom wrote in the memo. Strom wrote that the facts of the Hoefgen case “considerably strains any reasonable interpretation of the definition” of familial relationship.
Strom also wrote that he was provided a report of Hoefgen’s evaluation and treatment for sexual aggressiveness. That report “reveals to me that appropriate treatment was voluntarily entered into and completed,” Strom wrote. “Further, I am reliably informed that due to his involvement in this matter, concerns for his further contact with young persons had been identified and dealt with in an appropriate manner.”
Hoefgen was accused in a lawsuit filed Tuesday of sexually abusing a boy in Hastings from 1989 to 1992. The attorney who filed the lawsuit said Tuesday that he knows of four victims of Hoefgen’s and that there likely are more.