Former Arizona Catholic Priest Dies before Trial on Child Abuse Charges
By Lauren Castle
February 26, 2020
|John "Jack" Dallas Spaulding (Photo: Republic file photo)|
A former Catholic priest who was indicted on child sex crimes has died before his trial, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
John "Jack" Dallas Spaulding died Tuesday at the age of 75.
He was facing six counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of molestation of a child. The two boys were under the age of 15 during the alleged incidents, which were reported to have occurred in 2003 and 2007.
Spaulding was a priest at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in Cave Creek and St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa when the alleged acts took place, according to a statement from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.
Jennifer Liewer, the county attorney's spokeswoman, said the office will ask the court to dismiss the charges, a standard practice when a suspect dies.
A civil lawsuit was filed in Maricopa County Superior Court on the same day Spaulding died. It involves Spaulding and the diocese.
The diocese said in a statement that it shares the desire for seeking truth and justice and that Spaulding's death "prevents this process here on Earth and brings sadness, anger and hurt on many levels."
"We understand how difficult and painful this is for his family, the community of believers, and in a particular way for the individuals who came forward with allegations and their families," the diocese stated.
Dealing with illness in court
Earlier this month, a judge agreed to waive Spaulding's appearance in court for his arraignment after his lawyer stated in court records that Spaulding had been diagnosed with a "serious mortal health condition" a few days before the "initiation of this matter."
Rachel Mitchell, deputy chief of the criminal group at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, was prosecuting the case. She asked the court to require Spaulding to provide a doctor's note explaining his health.
His attorney told the court that Spaulding was receiving treatment that weakens his immune system and affects his physical capabilities. He claimed a doctor directed the former priest not to attend the hearing due to the "respiratory viruses now circulating among the public."
"These circumstances render him extremely weak, unstable in his gait, and highly vulnerable to infectious disease," the lawyer stated in records.
Removal from ministry
Spaulding was removed from ministry from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix in 2011 due to "credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors," according to the diocese.
While serving in the diocese, he also served at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Glendale, Christ the King in Mesa, Santa Teresita in El Mirage, St. Louis the King in Glendale, St. Raphael in Glendale, St. Helen in Glendale, St. Maria Goretti in Scottsdale and St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix.
At least four allegations were brought against Spaulding in 2011. The allegations date back to the 1970s and 1980s. In 2012, a father filed a civil lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, claiming his son was abused by the priest. The case was dismissed in 2014.
A Special Tribunal was held in the Catholic Church to investigate allegations made against Spaulding in 2014. He was found guilty of "sins against the Sixth Commandment with a minor." It was recommended that he be dismissed from the clerical state.
He was in the process of appealing this ruling when he was indicted on criminal charges earlier this year and then died.
Have thoughts about Arizona’s legal system? Reach criminal justice reporter Lauren Castle at Lauren.Castle@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Lauren_Castle.