Genesee County Opens Investigation into Priest

Associated Press State & Local Wire [Flushing, Mich.]
May 10, 2002

Genesee County prosecutors have opened an investigation into a priest accused of sexual misconduct at a parish here.

Prosecutor Arthur Busch said his office was looking into allegations against the Rev. Jason Sigler and said there are multiple victims. He declined to say how many.

Tony Otero, of Macomb Township, recently came forward with sex abuse allegations against Sigler, accusing the priest of repeatedly abusing him in 1975 when Sigler lived briefly in the rectory at St. Roberts Parish.

Sigler left the Diocese of Lansing in 1970 to seek treatment at a special center for priests in New Mexico. After his release from the center, he worked in New Mexico parishes and later acknowledged sexually abusing at least 17 boys there in the 1970s and 80s.

He pleaded guilty to a 1983 sex charge and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe paid at least $13 million to settle more than 20 sex abuse lawsuits against him.

Sigler was staying at the Flushing parish in the mid-70s to offer care to his ailing parents who were in the area, said Michael Diebold, spokesman for the Diocese of Lansing. Efforts to reach Sigler for comment were unsuccessful.

Busch said despite the age of the case, it's possible that Sigler could still be prosecuted if the statute of limitations is suspended for the time Sigler spent living outside the state.

"This whole series of incidents have reawakened, stirred up a lot of terrible feelings for people," Busch said of the spate of allegations against priests nationwide.

Busch also said his office decided not to pursue an investigation into the Rev. Vincent DeLorenzo, who resigned Jan. 23 as pastor of Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton. DeLorenzo has admitted having inappropriate sexual contact with a minor.

The contact, Busch said, took place nearly 30 years ago. He said documents from the Diocese of Lansing don't show any other accusations of misconduct against DeLorenzo.

Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Detroit has identified one of the priests being investigated by Wayne County prosecutors. The Rev. Walter Lezuchowski, 69, has been placed on leave and barred from any public ministry in the archdiocese.

The archdiocese said Lezuchowski already was serving on a restricted basis after an allegation of sexual misconduct with children was brought forward in 1991, dating back several years. Over the last decade he served as a part-time chaplain in a hospital and a correctional facility. He also served briefly as a temporary parish administrator two years ago.

Ned McGrath, spokesman for the archdiocese, said the allegations against Lezuchowski are at least 20 years old.

"Still, we must be vigilant," McGrath said. "Our primary concern is for the safety of children and the well-being of the community."

Lezuchowski could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, the Wayne County prosecutor said his office was opening investigations into 16 priests.


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