Suit Says Man Got AIDS Virus from Religious Group

By Sylvia Brooks
Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
May 22, 1993

Parents of a 41-year-old mentally retarded man have sued the state in the Ohio Court of Claims for $25 million, claiming their son was infected with the AIDS virus at Good Shepherd Manor in Pike County by members of a Roman Catholic religious community.

The family's attorney, Norman Murdock of Cincinnati, said yesterday he had heard that another former resident also has tested positive for the virus.

At the time of the alleged incidents, between 1981 and 1985, the home was owned and run by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, a Roman Catholic order with headquarters in Albuquerque, N.M.

In February, all residents were tested for AIDS, but officials at the home would not say if any resident other than the plaintiff had tested positive for the HIV virus.

The parents named the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in the suit, claiming that the department licenses the facility and therefore is responsible for the well-being of residents.

In a separate lawsuit filed Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, the plaintiffs named the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, nine individual brothers, the Columbus Diocese and its bishop, James A. Griffin, as defendants. Damages aren't specified.

The man, listed as John Doe, lived at the manor in 1985 when several state agencies and the Pike County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation into alleged sexual abuse of handicapped men by some of the brothers. Two brothers were indicted, and only one of them was indicted for a sex-related crime.

The brothers no longer own the home in Wakefield, Ohio, 70 miles south of Columbus.

Norm A. Tremblay, executive director of the manor, said a nonprofit corporation called the Friends of Good Shepherd Manor leased and ran the facility in 1987 and bought it from the brothers in 1989.

Tremblay said the man who filed the suit now lives with his family.

Murdock said the parents, who were unaware their son had been sexually abused, noticed he was losing weight and not feeling well. The son later named two brothers who he said sexually abused him, Murdock said.

The Rev. Thomas J. Holahan, diocesan communications director, said, "It is a tremendous, tragic personal situation." When the 1985 allegations were made to the bishop, he "made every effort to move and put a transition team together" to run the home, Holahan said.

Although the diocese did not own the home, the bishop can intervene if there is serious cause.

The Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd are an independent religious community that takes vows, but they are not priests.

Brothers Fintan Shaffer and Robert Hayden were accused in the common pleas lawsuit of molesting residents. Shaffer is accused of molesting the man who filed the suit, but Shaffer was never indicted. Hayden was sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty in April 1986 to one count of sexual battery.

The only other brother indicted was Brother Robert Illig. The indictment charges him with stealing $25,000 from the home's funds. He promised to pay it back.


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