Priest Charged in Assault

By Thom Gross
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 17, 1991

A Roman Catholic priest has been charged with sexually assaulting an altar boy, 11, after services last year at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in House Springs, where the priest was pastor. The priest, the Rev. Donald H. Heck, 56, was arrested Friday at St. Andrew Church in Lemay, where he is now assistant pastor. He was released on his promise to appear in court under the condition that he not associate with minors. Heck was indicted Nov. 21 by a grand jury in Jefferson County Circuit Court on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse. The charge, a felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Wally Gansmann, chief of detectives for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, said the incident was alleged to have occurred Oct. 26, 1990. He said the priest was alleged to have sexually assaulted the boy in the church sacristy. Gansmann said police first learned of the allegation through a call to a sexual abuse hot line in March. Gansmann said police learned at that time that the Archdiocese of St. Louis had already removed Heck for treatment. Bishop Edward O'Donnell, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said that under the church's policy, Heck had been removed and committed for residential treatment on the basis of an allegation against him. The church takes those actions immediately upon such allegations, even before they can be proved or disproved, O'Donnell said. O'Donnell added that the church also promptly reported allegations of sexual abuse to the Division of Family Services. He said that Heck had spent about a year in treatment and that the treatment center had approved his return to the ministry in October. Heck was assigned, under a four-year supervision, to St. Andrew, 309 Hoffmeister Avenue, O'Donnell said. Gansmann said that police had information that other altar boys might have been similarly assaulted but that none had come forward. O'Donnell said that no new allegations had been made against Heck.


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