Former Bad Axe priest investigated locally for alleged sex abuse

By Brenda Battel
HurDaily Tribune
May 2, 2018

BAD AXE — A police report reveals local authorities investigated a former Huron County priest that the Saginaw Diocese recently announced was laicized following sexual abuse allegations.

Jack E. Leipert, known as "Father Jack," was a pastor at Sacred Heart in Bad Axe, when he was investigated for allegedly molesting a 21-year-old man in 2000.

No charges were ever filed by the Huron County Prosecutor's Office.

The Bad Axe Police Department investigated the complaint, wherein it was alleged Leipert molested the victim on Nov. 7, 2000, according to a police report.

Leipert reportedly approached the alleged victim at a gas station in Caseville about paying him to do some maintenance work.

On Nov. 5, the two men spoke over the phone and arranged to meet at Sacred Heart — which they did, on Nov. 7, to discuss the work.

"As (the victim) was standing in the doorway, Father Jack's hand brushed up against his butt," according to the report. Leipert later "started to rub (the victim's) arm, then reached down and grabbed ahold of (the victim's) penis."

The complaint was discussed among Bad Axe police personnel and members of the Huron County Prosecutor's Office.

At the time, Mark Gaertner served as Huron's elected prosecutor. He is now an assistant prosecutor in Saginaw County.

Gaertner did not immediately return calls Wednesday seeking comment regarding the case.

The victim's name, as well as entire paragraphs in the report — which the Tribune acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request — were redacted.

Bad Axe Police Chief David W. Rothe recently told the Tribune all other evidence, including audio recordings, was destroyed. Authorities are allowed to destroy such records after a certain period of time, he added, and all that remains with the department is the police report, which was stored electronically.

Authorities involved in the investigation worked with the Huron County Sheriff's Office to set up a sting involving an undercover sheriff's officer, who was introduced to Leipert through the 21-year-old alleged victim.

The police report indicates the sting proved to be unsuccessful, as Leipert told the undercover officer, "I've psycho analyzed you and I can't help but to think things are not above the table ... I can't help but think there is a hidden agenda with you being here."

Officials later decided to notify the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw of the situation, according to the report.

"The officers would ask that something be done by the church to handle this matter," the police report states.

Bad Axe police delivered a complaint, copies of statements and a warrant request to Gaertner's office.

Gaertner then wrote a letter to the victim, the police report states. The warrant request for the complaint was denied, and the case was closed "subject to (being) reopened if further information about this crime or other related crimes (came) to the attention of the Bad Axe Police Department."

The report lists the alleged Nov. 7, 2000, offense as "fourth-degree sexual contact forcible."

Leipert had his faculties withdrawn in June 2001, which means at that time he stopped functioning as a priest. He was laicized in February 2006, which means his ties with the Saginaw Diocese were severed. It wasn't until last month that it was publicly announced Leipert was laicized and suspected of prior sexual abuse.

Officials from the Diocese did not immediately return messages seeking further information on whether the alleged Nov. 7, 2000, incident was related to Leipert's removal.

The Diocese announced in March a total of five priests, including Leipert, had been removed from the ministry as a result of sexual abuse allegations.

Two others — Robert J. DeLand and Ronald J. Dombrowski — have been placed on administrative leave "related to allegations under investigation," according to the Diocese.

Drombrowski, 72, served at several area churches from 1978 to 2001. He was suspended by Bishop Joseph R. Cistone, because an allegation of sexual abuse against Dombrowski is being investigated. The Diocese announced "a self-identified victim, who was a minor at the time and is no longer a minor, was in contact with the Diocese on Thursday, March 15."

Drombrowski served at St. Mary of Czestochowa, Kinde; St. Edward the Confessor Parish, Kinde; Ss. Peter & Paul, Ruth; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Vassar; St. Bernard, Millington; St. Mary, Parisville; St. Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, Port Sanilac; St. John Chrysostom, Forestville; and Sacred Heart Parish, Caro.

Other former priests who served at area churches and have been removed from the ministry were: Stanislaus A. Bur and Leonard F. Wilkuski. Wilkuski served as pastor at St. Mary of Parisville from July 1983 to July 1990. He had his faculties withdrawn in April 2002. He was laicized in February 2006.

Bur served as pastor of St. Edward in Kinde and St. Felix of Pinnebog from August 1973 to May 1974. He stopped functioning as a priest in October 1992, and underwent permanent suspension of faculties in November 2005. He died in February 2009.

According to the Associated Press, DeLand was bound over last week in Saginaw on charges of criminal sexual conduct, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct and distributing an imitation controlled substance.

Michael J. Talbot, recently retired chief judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals, was appointed last month by the Saginaw Diocese as special independent delegate for sexual abuse of minors and misconduct in the Diocese.

However, Saginaw area police and Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson have previously stated that anyone who has been a victim of abuse should contact local law enforcement.


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