"He's An Incredible Man"

Church Pastor Resigns
Amid Sex Scandal

May 18, 1998

Redmond, Washington (AP) -- The pastor of the state's largest church resigned amid allegations he fondled male parishioners and the news that he was arrested three years ago on a morals charge in Florida.

The Rev. Bob Moorehead said Sunday he was resigning as senior pastor of the 5,000-member Overlake Christian Church because he has concluded the "horrible, perverted, reprehensible accusations" represented a stumbling block to the church's mission. He said he was innocent.

Family members wept as the 61-year-old Moorehead spoke.

"He's an incredible man, and it's been a very hard time," said parishioner Dawn Hammontree.

More than 10 men have recently come forward saying Moorehead fondled them in the late 1970s and early '80s, several as they were preparing for adult baptisms or in other church functions. One, now in his late 40s, said he and Moorehead engaged in mutual fondling for four years.

Overlake, a nondenominational evangelical church founded in 1968, moved in December into a $37 million, 241,000-square-foot complex in this Seattle suburb.

The accusations surfaced this year following reports Moorehead was arrested in July 1996 in Daytona Beach, Fla., on charges that he masturbated in a public bathroom. He said he was innocent, insisting that police mistook him for another man, but offered to plead no contest to reduced charges to avoid a court battle.

While the case was pending, Moorehead's lawyer was elected prosecutor and all charges eventually were dropped, although police have maintained the arrest was justified.

One of the accusers, Arthur Ashley, a 55-year-old bus driver, said he was pleased with the resignation "because that was what he needed to do. But then he said he was innocent of all the charges and I know that to be a blatant falsehood."

Moorehead has been with the church since shortly after its founding. Three months ago, church elders hired a former police detective to review the accusations. His findings were to be announced next week. Moorehead said Sunday that he submitted his resignation April 20 and it was not related to the investigator's pending report.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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$15M Suit Alleges
Scout Camp Abuse
by James Jefferson
Associated Press Writer

July 20, 1998

Little Rock, Arkansas (AP) -- The Boy Scouts of America are being sued for alleged physical and emotional abuse of inner-city youths at a summer camp in northern Arkansas.

Among the charges in the $15 million lawsuit is that the children were forced to eat charred wood from a camp fire, drink lake water and were left unsupervised in surrounding woods.

The lawsuit claims the July 1997 abuses at Kia Kima Scout Reservation in Hardy were racially motivated. Most of the Memphis campers are black and the camp officials white.

Another defendant in the lawsuit, the Kiwanis Club of Memphis, which sponsored the camp trip for 80 children, said the allegations were investigated and found to be false.

"It was looked into by both the Boy Scouts and the Kiwanis. We found out that there was nothing that happened," said Joy Foshee, executive director of the Kiwanis Club of Memphis.

The lawsuit charges that female campers were subjected to lurid comments by male teen-age counselors who beat on the girls' shower walls, forcing them to run out of the showers half-dressed.

Camp officials ignored repeated requests by adult overseer Michael Adams to stop the offenses, the lawsuit said. Adams, a drug and alcohol abuse prevention consultant, filed the lawsuit Friday along with Floyd and Wanda Jones, parents of two youths who attended the camp.

Jeff Isaac, director of field services for the Chickasaw Council of Boy Scouts of America in Memphis said he was "probably more shocked than anything else. It sounds like really far out stuff."

Also named as defendants were Sharp County Sheriff T.J. Powell and Deputy Dewayne Halcom. Neither returned telephone messages seeking comment Monday.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Diocese Ordered to Pay
$30 Million for Sexual Abuse

July 17, 1998

Stockton, California (AP) -- Two brothers who accused the Catholic Diocese of Stockton of covering up sexual abuse by a parish priest for more than a decade have won a $30 million court award.

In one of the nation's largest judgments in a clergy abuse case, a Superior Court civil jury on Thursday ordered the diocese to pay Joh and James Howard $24 million in punitive damages and $6 million in compensatory damages.

"This says to me that people out there understand. People grasped what level of impact this has taken on my family," Joh Howard said. "I feel so relieved and so vindicated."

The ruling comes less than a week after the Catholic Diocese of Dallas agreed to pay $23.4 million to nine former altar boys who said they were molested by a priest.

The Howards had accused the diocese of concealing the Rev. Oliver Francis O'Grady's history of abusing children, The trial in Stockton, 65 miles east of San Francisco, did not address O'Grady's guilt -- he was convicted earlier -- but whether his superiors knew about the abuse.

In a statement, Stockton Bishop Donald Montrose asked for the Howard family's forgiveness, saying the diocese "did not understand the depth of the problem."

"We are disappointed with the jury's decision to punish the diocese in a way which will effectively destroy virtually all of the services provided by the diocese to its people and the community," he said.

O'Grady's attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday.

O'Grady was convicted in 1994 of molesting Joh, now 19, and James, 23. He is serving a 14-year prison term.

O'Grady and his supervisor, the Rev. Cornelius DeGroot, signed two letters in 1976 apologizing to the parents of an 11-year-old girl after O'Grady allegedly touched her inappropriately, said the Howards' attorney, Laurence Drivon.

O'Grady testified that former Stockton Diocese Bishop Merlin Guilfoyle didn't order him to seek counseling after the 1976 incident and seemed angry that he had apologized.

When police began their own investigation in 1984, O'Grady was receiving counseling, church officials said. According to police, the diocese told authorities O'Grady would be transferred and would only be working with adults.

In 1985, O'Grady was appointed pastor of St. Andrew's Parish in San Andreas. A year later, the diocese appointed him associate pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Turlock, where he reportedly met the Howards.

David Clohessy, the director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Chicago, said the jury award is the largest per plaintiff in a case involving a religious institution.

"It's an incredibly powerful statement (that) says the abuse of kids has to stop and that puts the blame squarely where it belongs, on the hierarchy of the church," said Clohessy, who sat in on the parts of the trial.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Catholic Bishops
to Fight Media Sex
by Claudia Coates
Associated Press Writer

June 19, 1998

Pittsburgh (AP) -- The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Friday vowed to increase their role in fighting media sex and violence and urged the industry to curb graphic portrayals.

"The media's dark side continues to obscure the value of their contributions," the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a seven-point statement that outlined their strategy to reduce sex and violence in the entertainment industry.

Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., said it was the first major statement to come from bishops on the issue.

"We can't springboard progress unless we have a policy platform," Lynch said. "I see this as a Magna Carta, a foundational document."

Already, Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore has talked with some Hollywood executives, directors and writers who were "very, very receptive," said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco of New York. "They show concerns very similar to ours."

The Church hopes to meet with media executives regularly, according to Lynch.

About 250 bishops attended the spring conference. The bishops said sex and violence can be appropriate viewing for adults "in a moral context."

But they asked viewers not to watch sensational programming, acknowledging that media outlets will continue offer such shows if they remain profitable.

Parents were urged to have the backbone to control what their children view.

"Sharing the reasons why a video game is too violent or a particular show lacks good values about sex can contribute to a youngster's moral growth," read the statement.

It also called for occasionally shutting off the radio, television and phone for family time.

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Modernization Upsets
Ukrainian Church

April 30, 1998

Kiev, Ukraine (AP) -- A Ukrainian priest says he was censured for installing a microphone and an organ in his church and a computer in his office.

According to Ukrainian television, Prior Ioan said he also broke tradition by celebrating mass in modern Ukrainian rather than the traditional language of Russian Orthodoxy, called Old Church Slavonic.

The priest is from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. He said after Russian Orthodox Church leaders in Moscow disciplined him for his actions, he joined the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a breakaway branch. And, he said, Moscow leaders responded by excommunicating him.

The Ukrainian branch broke away from the Moscow patriarchate six years ago, and the two churches have since been at odds over property and followers.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Smuggler, Fearful
of Allah, Confesses

May 21, 1998

Sofia (Reuters) -- Bulgaria's customs officers said on Thursday that for the first time a drug smuggler had confessed heroin found in his bus belonged to him.

"Allah can see everything. The packages are 20. They are mine. This is heroin," a Turkish citizen, driving a bus with 25 passengers, told Bulgarian customs officers at the Kapitan Andreevo check point on the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

Customs' spokesman Ivan Kutevski told Reuters that heroin was found during a routine check of the vehicle.

The packages were hidden behind a refrigerator in the bus going from Istanbul to the Romanian capital Bucharest.

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'Possessed' Man Gets Jail
for Torching 56 Cars
by Cliff Walker

October 29, 1998

Singapore -- A Singapore court sentenced a 65-year-old man to seven-and-a-half years in jail for setting fire to 56 cars, including 21 Mercedes-Benzes and nine BMWs, the Straits Times reported.

Kee said he was "possessed" and had heard voices telling him to do it, but he was found fit to stand trial after two weeks of psychiatric examination.

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'Now We Are All Angels
and With Jesus,' Says Mom
 

Paper Gets Letter
From Dead Woman
by Greg Smith
Associated Press Writer

November 12, 1998

Davenport, Iowa (AP) -- By all signs, Janis Custer spent some of her last hours alive mailing a diary and letter to a newspaper, writings that declared: "I am not a murderer, but I have been forced to become one."

In her home, police found the bodies of Ms. Custer and her daughter, Christina Custer-Rock, dead from gunshot wounds. The younger woman's daughters, ages 3 and 2, were wounded but are expected to recover.

Police said they are investigating the deaths as a double-homicide. But the packet received by the Quad City Times indicates that Ms. Custer -- frustrated because authorities discounted her claim that her former son-in-law molested her granddaughters -- may have shot the children and her 27-year-old daughter before killing herself.

The letter and journal apparently were mailed a few hours before Monday's shootings. The letter was signed "Jan Custer" and also said, "Now we are all angels and with Jesus."

Lt. Don Schaeffer said police were trying to verify that Ms. Custer wrote the letter and were still investigating other possible suspects.

The writings paint a picture of a woman obsessed with the belief that the former son-in-law, Trevor Rock, had sexually abused his children.

The state Human Services Department found no evidence that Rock abused his daughters, and the letter laments that nobody would pursue her allegations.

Schaeffer said Ms. Custer, 50, also had contacted police and hired a private investigator and attorney. He said her actions showed a "mental disorder here, there's no way of avoiding that issue."

Ms. Custer apparently had kept the journal to help caseworkers. She wrote that Rock "has practically destroyed this family" and that he had turned her daughter against her, even after the couple's divorce this past spring.

Capt. Dave Heesch said Rock, 27, discovered the victims Monday after trying to call his ex-wife about picking up the children. Rock went to the house and saw her body through a window, Heesch said.

The journal said Ms. Custer had seen a psychiatric counselor this year because Rock and her daughter were worried she was fabricating stories about sexual abuse.

"I would've kidnapped the children and taken them to safety, but I didn't have enough money and would've been arrested and thrown in jail," said one entry. "And then they never would've been out of harm's way."

Another entry said that Ms. Custer tried to take the children to Missouri but returned them when her daughter and Rock threatened to have her arrested.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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Stealing Corpses

Death Gives Birth
to New Business

May 18, 1998

Hong Kong (Reuters) -- Death has given birth to a new lucrative business in China -- stealing corpses.

The body snatchers sell the corpses to bereaved families who do not want the deceased cremated under mandatory rules in some parts of China, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper said on Monday.

As China curbs traditional burials and promotes cremation to save precious arable land, some local governments in the country of 1.2 billion people have made cremation compulsory.

Some thieves bribe hospital workers to carry out the corpses as luggage, Apple Daily said.

Others steal bodies directly from mortuaries.

Chinese police recently arrested a cremation worker in Heze city in China's eastern Shangdong province for stealing corpses, it said.

Kan Langen, together with accomplices, had snatched 19 bodies between last October to April, making a profit of more than 20,000 Chinese yuan (US$2,415).

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Police Find Human
Bones, Arrest Thief

July 21, 1998

Frankfurt (Reuters) -- German police said Tuesday they had detained a man after finding a hoard of human bones and more than 100 urns in a Frankfurt apartment building.

The unnamed 30-year-old man, a manual laborer, had confessed to stealing skulls, bones and urns from cemeteries around the city and keeping them in a disused cellar.

The arrest ended an investigation into a spate of mysterious graveyard thefts which started late last year, police said.

"What surprised us was that he said he visited the cemeteries in broad daylight, he didn't wait until nightfall," said police spokesman Peter Oehm. "He has a psychological problem and wanted to experience a feeling of power."

The man did not dig up graves and open coffins, Oehm said. "After several decades gravesites are cleared to make way for new burials. The bones uncovered in the digging process are stored separately and he helped himself to those."

The caretaker of the apartment building in central Frankfurt discovered the bones and urns by chance, police said. Bones were also found in the garden of the house.

The detained man was transferred to a psychiatric hospital after saying he planned to commit suicide. He may face charges of theft and breaching the peace.

Police said the urns were numbered and expected the city's cemetery authority to return them to relatives.

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Monk Seeks Lottery Help
From Snake Eggs

April 27, 1998

Bangkok, Thailand (Reuters) -- A Buddhist monk in eastern Thailand stole the unhatched eggs of two snakes, claiming he could determine the winning lottery numbers from them, but police made him take them back, police say.

News that two boa constrictors were hatching their eggs on a hill in Wangnamyen district of Sakhaew province last week drew hundreds of people, many of whom believed they could divine the winning digits of the next lottery from the eggs, police said.

Among them was a monk -- who stole the eggs, they said.

But provincial governor Puchong Rungroj learned of the theft and ordered local police to make the monk put them back, which he did after being threatened with legal action.

"The monk said that he could read and interpret the lottery number from the eggs..." police said, adding that "he has returned the eggs."

Puchong also urged police to erect barbed wire around the boas' hole to prevent people from disturbing the snakes and to safeguard the eggs.

The underground lottery -- trying to guess the last three digits of the legal, government-run lottery held twice a month -- is enormously popular in Thailand, with millions of people placing small bets.

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