Witness Says Priest Molested Her at Age 17
Teen Drawn to Kimball in 1972

By Peter Fimrite
San Francisco Chronicle
March 15, 2002

For nearly two decades, Sharon said, she tried to hide her shame and forget the traumatic day in 1972 when she was taken advantage of by the person she trusted most in the world.

In 1990, while in therapy to deal with her anxiety and depression, she said, she finally revealed that Donald Wren Kimball, the charismatic priest who seemed to know so much about the world, had molested her when she was a teenager.

Sharon, who did not want her last name revealed, was the fifth woman to testify about alleged sexual abuse in Kimball's rape and lewd conduct trial in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Now 47, she explained yesterday to the jury in Judge Gayle Guynup's courtroom how she had been emotionally ruined by the experience and why it had taken her so long to report it.

"I didn't want to think about it," she said, adding that she was overwhelmed with feelings of "shame, fear that it was my fault."

Kimball, 58, is charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in 1977 at Resurrection Parish in Santa Rosa and of lewd conduct with a 13-year-old girl in 1981 at St. John's Rectory in Healdsburg. The two alleged victims are scheduled to testify early next week.

Sharon and four other women were called by the prosecution to show a pattern of misconduct by Kimball dating back to 1971 when he was a priest in Eureka.

The case is a difficult one for the prosecution because the alleged molestations occurred so long ago, and the witnesses and victims are now in their 30s and 40s. The charges were filed after the statute of limitations for sex crimes involving children age 14 or younger was extended in the mid-1990s.

The case hinges on the credibility of the victims and witnesses and why they kept silent for so long. Defense lawyer Chris Andrian claimed that Sharon and another one of the women brought in as corroborating witnesses had been 18, the age of consent, by the time any sexual activity occurred.

He said controversial "repressed memory" techniques had been used by psychologists to elicit questionable recollections about Kimball.

Two psychologists who met with Kimball also testified yesterday that the minister had all but admitted the molestations when confronted and apologized, saying he had stopped such contact years before and had been in therapy.

Sharon's story is similar to that of the other witnesses. She said she had been drawn to Kimball, whom everyone called "Father Don," because he seemed to understand her problems and the problems of her peers.

She was 17 in 1972 and searching for someone to talk to when he invited her into the rectory in Eureka on the pretext of listening to his radio show, "God Talk," she said.

Instead, she ended up giving him a massage during which he suddenly took off all his clothes, revealing an erection. Eventually he talked her into stripping, too, at which point he groped her and then laid on top of her.

"There wasn't any part of my body he didn't touch," she said. "There's a part of me saying, he's an adult, comply, and another part of me that's saying, 'This doesn't feel right.' "

Sharon, like most of the alleged victims, went through years of therapy and, Andrian said, hypnosis, to deal with the trauma.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.