Alleged Abuse Victim Promotes Plight

Associated Press Online
September 19, 2002

Mary Lenahan pulled her SUV into the Shop 'n' Bag parking lot and stepped out. Immediately, a soft-spoken man in khaki shorts, sneakers and a rumpled New York Mets baseball shirt walked up and pressed a flier into her hand.

"Help save your boys from this man, child sex abuser," it read. "He likes boys age 12 to 17, his name is Fr. Roy Hardin."

Daniel Tomaziefski, a thick sheaf of the typewritten fliers in hand, then turned and searched the lot for someone else he could approach in his one-man vigilante campaign.

Thwarted by the statute of limitations, Tomaziefski, 42, is out to avenge the abuse he says he suffered more than two decades ago and protect others from similar ordeals. So he's papering this small Jersey shore resort, handing fliers to shoppers, posting them in store windows and going door-to-door to warn people about the Roman Catholic priest he says abused him and others.

Three times in the last month, he has made the one-hour drive from his home in Pine Hill to Brigantine to spread the word.

"It's the only justice that's out there. There's nothing, legally, I'm allowed to do to put this man in jail," he said.

Hardin, 65, was suspended by the Diocese of Camden after 30 years in the priesthood. His last year in active ministry was 1994.

"The diocese has received credible allegations of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct involving Father Hardin, so the diocese has removed him from active ministry, suspended him, notified local law enforcement and county prosecutors and is insisting on ongoing treatment for Father Hardin," spokesman Andrew Walton said.

Hardin, who has never been criminally charged, would not respond to the allegations when contacted by The Associated Press.

Initially, he agreed to an interview and said he would show a blackmail letter he claimed to have received from Tomaziefski. He later canceled the interview, saying, "I can't talk right now. There's too many things in the works."

Tomaziefski, now a drywall finisher, said he had been sexually abused as a child and was on the brink of suicide when he went to St. Edward's Roman Catholic church for help in 1976.

"He's the one who answered the door. He talked to me, counseled me, helped me, then offered for me to come down and do handiwork at his house in Brigantine, where he was putting in bricks, sidewalks, ponds and stuff.

"That's his M.O. He offers to pay you to get you to work. He'd let us drink all day, and I was staying there on weekends. The first time it happened, I got drunk, passed out and, when I woke up, he was on top of me, naked," Tomaziefski said.

Tomaziefski said shame kept him from coming forward earlier. Now married, with two children, he said he decided to speak out after he began having flashbacks about the abuse.

He said he never reported Hardin to the police, but has asked to join a suit filed against the diocese by 18 people who came forward with sex abuse allegations after the statute of limitations for such claims lapsed.

Tomaziefski embarked on his street campaign after being told that minors were seen coming and going from Hardin's home.

He denied attempting to blackmail Hardin, saying he wrote the priest only to ask him to leave his house to Tomaziefski when he dies, as remuneration for the pain he caused him.

Since Tomaziefski's campaign began, he has distributed more than 600 fliers.

Neighbors don't know who - or what - to believe.

"I don't think it's right, to start a campaign against another human being without proof," said Florence McDevitt, 47, who lives down the street from Hardin. "If he was molested, my heart goes out to him. If he wasn't, my heart goes out to the priest."

Marion Massara, 64, who lives on the next street over, said she would keep a closer eye on her grandchildren. "I used to let them walk around the corner, but now I'm going to supervise them more," she said.

And Mary Lenahan, who was handed a flier at the Shop 'n' Bag parking lot, seemed sympathetic.

"They should put things like this out," she said. "The community has a right to know."

Others at the Shop 'n' Bag dismissed Tomaziefski with a shrug, unwilling to hear him out. "Is this stuff really true?" said one woman.

Walton, the diocesan spokesman, said police were alerted when the diocese began hearing minors were seen at Hardin's house.

Police Sgt. Thomas Grentz, a Brigantine detective, would not say whether Hardin had been the focus of any criminal complaints, whether the priest was being watched or whether he had filed a harassment complaint against Tomaziefski.

"We are aware of the fliers and the situation and have been in contact with the county prosecutor, who's also aware of them," he said.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz did not respond to requests for comment.

Neighbor Florence McDevitt said she had confidence that if Hardin posed a threat to the community, police would be watching him closely.

"This is a very small, very Republican little island," she said. "When it comes to their children, these people are absolute grizzly bears."


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