Priest Destroyed Child Porn, Parents Say

     ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CN) – When a Catholic church’s choirmaster was arrested on charges of sexual abuse of a child, his supervising priest abruptly left a parish school board meeting and went to the choirmaster’s apartment to destroy evidence of the crimes by deleting files from the man’s computer, a girl’s parents claim in Buncombe County Court.

     The girl and her parents sued the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, the Rev. John Schneider, and the choirmaster, Paul Lawrence Berrell. They claim that Schneider went to Berrell’s apartment for the express purpose of deleting pornographic images of children from Berrell’s home computer – some of which he had made himself.
     The Doe family claims Berrell, music minister at the Parish of St. Eugene, and music and choral teacher at Asheville Catholic School, is a serial child abuser whom the Catholic Church had moved from one parish to another each time his predations came to light.
     Before in Asheville, Berrell had got into trouble for his relationships with minors in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the Archdiocese of Boston and the Diocese of Memphis, the complaint states.
     All of these incidents were known to the Rev. Schneider, at St. Eugene Parish, yet Schneider not only allowed, but helped foster Berrell’s proximity to minors, through assignments and promotions, the parents say.
     Through this access, Berrell “singled out and groomed” their daughter for “his own improper sexual interests and gratification,” the parents say.
     They claim that Berrell and their daughter had sex and oral sex repeatedly between 2007 and 2009, and that Berrell took numerous pornographic photographs of the girl, “depicting actual or simulated sexual acts.”
     Berrell was arrested in May 2009, and called Schneider while he was in police custody, according to the complaint.
     Schneider took the call at an Ashville Catholic School board meeting, then immediately set out for Berrell’s apartment to destroy any evidence he could find on the teacher’s computer, according to the complaint.
     The complaint states that Schneider “excused himself from and departed the Asheville Catholic School Board meeting; traveled to and entered Berrell’s apartment at North Ridge Drive in Asheville, Buncombe County, North Carolina, where he attempted to delete from Berrell’s computer numerous pornographic images of children, including, on information and belief, pornographic images of the minor child taken by Berrell; and then returned to the meeting of the Board of Asheville Catholic School.”
     The parents call this part of “a pattern and practice [of the Catholic Church] of knowingly employing sexual abusers,” and “protecting” them.
     They seek compensatory and punitive damages for battery and sexual assault, negligence, fraud, emotional distress and breach of duty.
     They are represented by W. Bradford Searson and W. Scott Jones with Cloninger, Barbour, Searson & Jones, and Sean Devereux with Devereux & Banzhoff.

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