7 New Suits Allege Abuse by Priests

Union Leader (Manchester NH)
June 20, 2002

Seven more lawsuits — five filed yesterday and two last week — bring the number of alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests to about 90 individuals who are accusing the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire of failing to protect them as young parishioners from sexual predators.

Two plaintiffs, one going by the name John Doe No. 22 and the other John Doe No. 23, are alleging the Rev. Edward Richard molested them while they were asleep, according to their lawyer Mark A. Abramson.

Abramson, attorney Peter Hutchins and attorney Charles Douglas all are involved in cases on behalf of alleged abuse victims. Abramson and Hutchins have more than 80 cases between them, before the current suits were filed.

The latest lawsuits have been filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court and name the Roman Catholic Bishop as the defendant.

Richard was placed on administrative leave in April after it was disclosed that the Merrimack police were investigating him in connection with allegations by three individuals.

The plaintiffs in the two John Doe civil suits are witnesses in the Merrimack investigation, according to Abramson, and their claims arise during the time Richard was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy Church in Merrimack between 1973 and 1982.

Until relieved of his duties, Richard had served as pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Pelham for the past 14 years.

One of the alleged victims claims to have been molested once while on a ski trip in Maine and several times at a private summer camp in New Hampshire, Abramson said. The abuse, he said, took place over a five-year span, starting when the boy was 13.

Always, Abramson said, the boys were asleep and woke up to find Richard fondling them.

The other John Doe plaintiff accuses Richard of abusing him inside the priest's car, at the rectory and many times in the boy's home. He alleges the abuse took place between 1977 and 1980, from the time he was 10 years old until he was about 13.

A person identified as John Doe No. 21 alleges he was sexually assaulted by first one priest and then another. "They passed the baton," Abramson said.

The alleged victim says he was abused by the Rev. Roland Vielette from 1956 to 1958, with the assaults taking place in the priest's car. The Manchester Diocese says Vielette died in January 1983. Vielette is also named in another lawsuit by a man who alleges the priest assaulted him in 1973.

From 1958 to 1959, John Doe No. 21 claims he was abused by the Rev. Donald Osgood, who allegedly carried out the acts in the former Sacred Heart Hospital where Osgood had his living quarters. The alleged abuse stopped when he was 13 years old.

Two of the new lawsuits identify the Rev. Francis Lamothe as the abuser. Abramson alleges he was "a groomer" who gradually took boys into his confidence, taking them on outings, buying them ice cream and being their friends.

"He had many, many victims we're finding out," Abramson said. "This Lamothe is a real monster, I think." Lamothe, who has been named in other lawsuits as well, died in April 1995, according to the diocese.

Kenneth Castonguay of Swanzey is alleging Lamothe sexually assaulted him at the Sacred Heart Church in Greenville from 1964 to 1967. He says it started when he was 9 and ended when he was about 12.

An unnamed plaintiff, John Doe No. 24, alleges he was abused by Lamothe in the same parish, from 1971 to 1972.

Plaintiff Joel Munsey, now a resident of Oldsmar, Fla., alleges he was abused by the Rev. Stephen Scruton at St. Joseph's parish in Laconia in 1969. Scruton's pastoral duties were suspended in 1991 after he was sued. Munsey is the third of Abramson's clients to file civil lawsuits against the church who name Scruton as their abuser.

Another John Doe plaintiff, number 25, alleges he was abused more than 100 times by a priest whose name has not come up before. This priest, whose name is being withheld by The Union Leader, does not appear on the diocese's rosters of priests after 1963, the diocese said. This alleged victim claims the assaults took place from 1959 to 1963 at St. Jean Baptist in Manchester.


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