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Documents suggest ‘uncharged crimes’ by Mo. priest

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – A Kansas City priest facing more than a dozen child pornography charges had two pairs of girls’ underwear in his home and investigators found evidence he searched the Internet for photos of young girls, federal prosecutors say in a new court filing.

The Rev. Shawn Ratigan, 46, also searched the Web for two-way mirrors and tiny cameras disguised to look like pens, prosecutors said in documents detailing evidence of what they allege are “uncharged crimes” committed by the priest.

Prosecutors say that among evidence they may present at Ratigan’s trial, which is scheduled to begin next month, is a photo of the priest in his underwear at the home of one of his alleged victims. Ratigan faces 13 federal counts of sexual exploitation of children, along with three state child pornography charges.

“My client is awaiting and looking forward to his opportunity to dispute any and all of the information at trial,” said Bob Kuchar, Ratigan’s federal public defender.

A federal indictment accuses Ratigan of taking explicit photos of girls he had contact with from 2005 until April 2011. One count in the indictment accuses Ratigan of taking pictures of a 2-year-old girl in the choir loft of St. Joseph’s Church in Easton, Mo. Another count accuses him of trying on April 24, 2011 _ Easter Sunday _ to take explicit photos of a 12-year-old girl, whom he is alleged to have taken similar photos of when she was 6.

Prosecutors said in their Monday filing that they have evidence Ratigan possessed a young girl’s underwear in the summer of 2009, and that a different pair of underwear was found at his home in spring 2010. The filing does not detail how investigators believe Ratigan got the underwear.

Complaints against Ratigan _ who was ordained in 2004 at the age of 38 _ began piling up in 2009 as parents voiced concerns he was spending too much time with children and taking too many photos while they played and participated in church events.

In a memo dated May 19, 2010, St. Patrick School Principal Julie Hess wrote that several people had complained Ratigan was taking compromising pictures of young children and that he allowed them to sit on his lap and reach into his pocket for candy. It also said the mother of a young Brownie Girl Scout had found a pair of girl’s panties in a planter in the backyard of Ratigan’s home.

Vicar General Robert Murphy received the letter, spoke with Ratigan about setting boundaries with children, then gave a summary to Bishop Robert Finn.

Seven months after Hess submitted the letter, a computer technician working on Ratigan’s laptop found multiple images of girls under age 12. Most were fully clothed, but one was nude, according to a probable cause statement.

The diocese said a police officer and legal counsel both said the photos on Ratigan’s computer were very troubling, but didn’t meet the standard for child pornography.

A flash drive containing the photos retrieved from Ratigan’s computer wasn’t turned over to police until May 2011, the same month Ratigan was arrested, after the church received reports he had violated orders from the diocese to stay away from children.

Finn and the diocese are facing a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse to the state Division of Family Services, as required by Missouri law. Both have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in September.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star,
http://www.kcstar.com

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