Negligent supervision and defamation, including being labeled a “Jezebel” by an employee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saginaw are among the claims a former Central Michigan University student is alleging in a civil suit in Isabella County.
Megan Winans, who is suing former St. Mary’s University Parish priest Denis Heames, the Saginaw diocese and one of its employees, Trudy McCaffery, said in the suit that Heames coerced her into having a sexual relationship with him, then revoked an internship when the relationship ended.
Filed in Isabella County Trial Court, the suit is not set for any court dates but indicates a jury trial in Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain’s courtroom is requested.
Winans is also asking for in excess of $25,000, attorney fees and costs in the 10-count suit, that accuses Heames, the diocese, St. Mary’s and McCaffery of battery, defamation, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, negligent supervision and vicarious liability.
Filed by Winans’ attorney, James T. Heos of Church Wyble in Lansing, the suit alleges Heames abused his authority when he entered into a sexual relationship with Winans in the fall of 2012, when he began acting as her spiritual counselor.
The two spoke about Winans’ struggles with her faith and emotional issues, and that she had plans to find a counselor or psychologist but had not yet done so, according to the suit.
Heames persuaded Winans to attend weekly meetings for “spiritual direction and counseling,” and used his status as a priest to “mislead” her into a sexual relationship, according to the suit.
Heames “justified his sexual relationships with (Winans) by explaining it through religious and spiritual means, abusing his status as a priest of the Catholic Church as a ‘messenger of God,’” the suit alleges.
Although Winans is alleging that there were a number of times the two were sexually intimate, the first was allegedly at McCaffery’s home in Saginaw.
Heames “continued to abuse his position by maintaining a sexual relationship for almost two years,” asking Winans to keep it a secret, the suit alleges.
Winans, who said in the suit that she is Catholic and takes her faith seriously, also alleges that Heames hired her as a media intern at the CMU parish, having her travel with him as his assistant/intern, then revoked her job when the relationship ended.
Winans said in the suit that she and Heames maintained a dating relationship until August 2014.
She is also alleging that Heames had sexual relationships with other women both before and after 2012.
According to the suit, McCaffery told others after the alleged sexual relationship ended that Winans had “the spirit of Jezebel” and that she seduced Heames.
St. Mary’s parishioners and employees, and Saginaw diocese officials, knew about the relationship, and many St. Mary’s employees confronted Heames, according to the suit.
Winans maintains in the suit that the sexual encounters were against her will and that she feared repercussions if she turned down his sexual advances.
She said in the suit she suffered from physical harm and emotional distress.
Heames was suspended from St. Mary’s for “improper behavior” in July 2015.
After being placed on leave, Heames was dismissed of his appointment at St. Mary’s.