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Larson To Remain In Prison

The Kansas Parole Board Refuses To ReleaseThe Former Priest Serving Time For Abusing Three Boys And A Teenager

Oct 15, 2002 | The Wichita Eagle

Robert Larson, who pleaded guilty to molesting altar boys while serving as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, has been denied parole by the Kansas Parole Board.

The board announced Monday that Larson should remain in prison because of "the serious nature and the circumstances of the crime and the objections regarding parole." He will not be eligible for parole again until September 2004, parole board administrator Colene Fischli said.

Larson was notified of the board's decision Monday afternoon. Victims he admitted molesting were told, too.

"I'm very pleased with how the judicial system has treated this case," said Paul Schwartz, one of the four victims Larson was convicted of molesting.

"It actually gives me some hope that the judicial system actually does work."

Larson, 72, is serving a three- to 10-year sentence at Lansing Correctional Facility for abusing three altar boys and a teenager while he was pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton in the mid-1980s.

He pleaded guilty in Harvey County District Court in February 2001 to one felony count of indecent liberties with a child and three counts of sexual battery. Larson automatically became eligible for parole after serving half of his minimum sentence, or 18 months.

He served as a priest in the Wichita diocese for 30 years before being removed suddenly from St. Mary's in Newton in 1988 for what then-Bishop Eugene Gerber acknowledged was several allegations of sexual abuse.

The parole board could have allowed Larson to come up for parole next year, but chose to extend the sentence because of the serious nature of his crimes, Fischli said.

David Clohessy, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national advocacy group for victims of clergy sexual abuse, called the parole board's decision "significant."

"Historically, these men have spent very little time behind bars," Clohessy said, adding that the board's choice was "the only logical step they could take. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest he has healed himself."

Public interest in the Larson case was so high the parole board held a special session. More than two dozen people spoke to the board, most of them passionately opposed to Larson's release.

Among those who spoke was Janet Patterson. Her son Eric committed suicide three years ago.

"I think he needs to serve... every day of the sentence," Patterson said. "It won't begin to make up for all the hurt that he's done. But at least it's some sort of justice."


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