Evidence sought from cemetery pit

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Lawyers for two women suing the Archdiocese of Baltimore and a Catholic priest who allegedly molested them have filed a motion asking law enforcement authorities for access to evidence taken from a cemetery pit and a church rectory.

A portion of that evidence was dug up from the Holy Cross Cemetery in the Brooklyn section of South Baltimore as part of a criminal investigation by the city Police Department and state's attorney's office.

The van load of papers exhumed by police Aug. 9 had been buried in the cemetery in 1990 at the direction of the Rev. A. Joseph Maskell, who was then pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Baltimore, according to two sources familiar with the case. The documents included psychological test evaluations and canceled checks.

The motion, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court Dec. 23, asks that the records buried in the pit be made available to the attorneys, Phillip G. Dantes and Beverly A. Wallace, after the criminal probe is concluded.

The lawyers are representing the women suing Father Maskell and the archdiocese over sexual abuse that allegedly occurred when the women were students at Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s. The city has 15 days to respond to the motion.

The motion also asks that the attorneys have access to items taken when police served a search and seizure warrant Aug. 4 at St. Augustine's rectory in Elkridge, Howard County, where Father Maskell was pastor.

Sharon A. May, the assistant state's attorney directing the investigation, was not available for comment yesterday. Sources have indicated that the probe has been hampered by criminal statute of limitation issues and is near conclusion.

Father Maskell left the parish July 31 to seek psychological treatment in the wake of allegations that he abused high school students. Earlier this month, Cardinal William H. Keeler named a new permanent pastor at St. Augustine's.

The archdiocese has said Father Maskell is in a residential treatment center for anxiety and stress caused by the criminal investigation and the allegations of sex abuse. The archdiocese refused to say where the priest is being treated.

In an earlier interview with The Sun, Father Maskell denied all allegations made against him.

The women who have filed the suit are asking for $40 million in damages, alleging that Father Maskell sexually molested them. He was chaplain and counselor at Keough from 1967 to 1975.

Also named as a defendant in one of the suits is Dr. Christian Richter, 79, of Ruxton, a retired gynecologist. The suit alleges that he and Father Maskell sexually abused one of the women during a pelvic examination.

The Sun has interviewed other former Keough students who made similar allegations against the priest but who are precluded from suing by a three-year statute of limitations.

A May 1 hearing will be held in the city to determine whether the two outstanding suits fall within the statute of limitations, which gives a person three years to file after discovering she has been harmed.

As an example, Ms. Wallace cited a surgery patient who discovers 10 years after the operation that a surgical clamp was left inside his body. Under Maryland law, that person could have an additional three years.

The women said they recalled long-repressed memories about the abuse within the last three years. They said the memories did not return during therapy or through the use of drugs, hypnotism or other recall techniques.

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