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Religious Educator Is Suspended After Woman's Suit Alleges Abuse

Mar 29, 2003 | The Courier-Journal A former Catholic priest who serves as a religious educator at a Samuels, Ky., parish was suspended with pay yesterday by the Archdiocese of Louisville after a lawsuit accused him of sexually abusing a girl more than 30 years ago.

Lysha Beckman Sitzman filed suit in Jefferson Circuit Court yesterday, alleging that when she was 7, Joseph E. Carrico took her to a bedroom in her home on multiple occasions and forced her to have sexual contact with him.

The complaint says that her family was in St. Barnabas parish and was friendly with Carrico, the associate pastor, who visited the family's home during 1968.

Sitzman's attorney, William McMurry, said she is now 41. Attempts to contact her yesterday were unsuccessful.

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Cecelia Price said officials spoke with Carrico yesterday.

In a telephone interview, Carrico, who lives in Bardstown, said he hasn't seen the lawsuit. He said he knows the plaintiff and her family but hasn't seen them in years and denied the accusations.

''I know I didn't harm anybody, that's for sure,'' he said.

The lawsuit claims that church officials knew or had reason to believe that Carrico was sexually abusing children and didn't sanction Carrico or warn people about his behavior.

The lawsuit is the 214th pending against the archdiocese involving claims of sexual abuse by priests, teachers and others. Five other cases filed since April have been settled, according to the archdiocese and court records.

Carrico was ordained in 1967 and left the priesthood in 1973, Price said.

Carrico, 62, said he left the priesthood because ''I fell in love.'' He said he has been married for 28 years.

Carrico served as an associate pastor at St. Barnabas between 1967 and 1970, Price said, and then served at St. Helen and St. Catherine in New Haven. He took a leave of absence in 1973.

Carrico is a part-time religious educator at St. Gregory in Samuels, Price said.

''Per our policies, because of the accusation he's been suspended with pay pending the outcome of the accusation,'' she said.

His file contains no indications of any other accusations, Price said.

Sitzman's lawsuit requests a jury trial and an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

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