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Police Checking Other Allegations Against Blackwell

May 24, 2002 | The Baltimore Sun Baltimore police say they are investigating old and new allegations of sexual abuse by Rev. Maurice J. Blackwell so prosecutors can decide whether to pursue criminal charges against the Roman Catholic priest.

"Now that there is a larger picture, we ... have to make an overture to [potential victims] to see what we have," said Col. Robert M. Stanton, chief of detectives.

The inquiry means that Blackwell, 56, a popular religious leader in West Baltimore, has gone from gunshot victim in the past week to possible abuse suspect. Dontee D. Stokes, who says the priest abused him years ago, allegedly shot Blackwell on Monday in front of the Reservoir Hill rowhouse the priest shares with his mother.

A detective and city prosecutor met yesterday with the latest accuser, Ricardo Wayman, 50, who came forward Wednesday at a news conference called by Stokes' attorney. Wayman, a limousine driver, said Blackwell had sex with him repeatedly, starting when he was 15.

Police also will reconsider the case of a 47-year-old man who Blackwell molested for years, starting when he, too, was 14 or 15. The man told detectives and the Archdiocese Of Baltimore in 1998, but refused to testify and no charges were filed. Blackwell acknowledged the abuse to archdiocese officials, who removed him from St. Edward Catholic Church.

Yesterday, the man, who lives in Louisiana and asked that his name not be published, said he is considering whether to help police. "I'm thinking everything over," he said, adding that perhaps the new allegations against Blackwell will be successfully prosecuted. "Maybe they can make the difference. If they can't, maybe I'll say something."

In addition to these cases, Stanton said, detectives are revisiting the claims of Stokes, 26, who said in 1993 that Blackwell had fondled him over a three-year period, starting when he was 14 or 15. At the time, prosecutors decided they did not have enough evidence to charge Blackwell, although they say they believed Stokes' story.

Stanton said detectives will wait some weeks to see if other alleged victims of Blackwell speak up before they present their evidence to the state's attorney's office, which will then determine whether crimes have been committed. Detectives will be investigating accusations that in some cases date from the late 1960s, when laws regarding sexual and child abuse were different.

Deputy State's Attorney Sharon A.H. May said multiple victims can help prosecutors build a case against someone accused of abuse by corroborating evidence. But prosecutors cannot include victims from different incidents in a single case.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said prosecutors will review each allegation against Blackwell carefully.

Blackwell could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Stokes is out on bail on an attempted first-degree murder charge. His family says he simply wanted Blackwell to apologize.

The man who complained about Blackwell in 1998 said yesterday that he was stunned when he saw Blackwell's face on the national news -- but that he understood Stokes' impulse.

The man said he met Blackwell when he was a student at Clifton Park Junior High School, in about 1969. Blackwell, then a seminary student, came to talk to the class.

"It was like he zeroed in on me," he said. "I had some family problems, and maybe he picked up on that." Blackwell gave him his phone number, he said, and told him to call whenever things got rough at home. "He would come by and get me."

The man, who said he didn't have many friends at the time, looked up to Blackwell, and said Blackwell would introduce him affectionately as his son. "I thought he was the best person in the world," he said.

The abuse began soon after they met. "From the first minute it happened, I knew it wasn't right. But I didn't know what to do about it. He didn't hit me, he didn't tie me up or anything. I just lived with the evil of it," he said.

At first, Blackwell told him it was their secret, the man recalled. "I just didn't tell. Who was I going to tell? I didn't want anybody not believing me."

He remembers feeling almost hypnotized by Blackwell, who was well liked and a powerful member of the community.

The abuse went from touching to oral sex to attempted intercourse, and took place in various locations, including St. Mary's seminary, the man said. After some years, he joined the military, then moved to the West Coast -- to get away from Blackwell and the memories, he said. He believed he was the only one victimized by the priest.

"I swear I never knew there was anybody else," he said. "I just kind of shut the whole thing in the back of my head."

The Louisiana man said Blackwell continued to call and write letters. In 1993, during the investigation of Stokes' claims, Blackwell called to find out what he would say if authorities questioned him, according to a police report. The man said he doesn't remember talking to Blackwell after that.

The man said he told only one friend about the abuse while it was occurring. She urged him to tell the archdiocese for years. In 1993, she told him how church members refused to believe Stokes' accusations and shunned the teen-ager. Blackwell had denied the charge, and Cardinal William H. Keeler allowed him to return to St. Edward after briefly staying at a treatment center.

The friend finally persuaded him to tell church officials his story in 1998, after his son was born. "I didn't want someone like him doing that to my son," he said. And, he added, he wanted the authorities to believe Stokes' story as well.

The Rev. J. Bruce Jarboe, director of clergy personnel, met with the man in Las Vegas, where he then lived. When Blackwell later was confronted by archdiocesan officials, he replied, "It's true," Jarboe said.

The archdiocese at the time characterized the abuse to The Sun as "a consensual affair." "How do you do that to a 14- or 15-year-old?" he said yesterday.

The man has never returned to Maryland -- nor does he want to. What happened is still so agonizing that he can't discuss it without crying. "It kills me to talk about it," he said.

Blackwell's abuse has cost him relationships, marriages, his health -- and his faith.

"He really messed up my life," he said. "I just want to pull the covers back over my head."

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