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Second Woman Makes Claim Against Nome Priest

Apr 20, 2004 | AP

A second woman has filed a claim against the Catholic Church for abuse she said she suffered at the hands of a Nome Jesuit priest.

Patricia Hess saw the Rev. James Poole's face on television last month after a lawsuit was filed against him, she said. The incident triggered terrible memories about her own encounters with Poole, she said.

Hess told the Anchorage Daily News she also was sexually molested by Poole while a teenager in Nome. She has filed a formal complaint with the Catholic Church.

"I tried to forget about it," she said. "I just kept quiet about it. But) I didn't forget. It was just back there."

Poole's name became public March 15, the day another victim sued him, the Fairbanks diocese and the Jesuits in Bethel Superior Court for allegedly molesting her from 1978 to 1984. That woman, who is going by the pseudonym Jane Doe, also was a teenager in Nome when she said Poole fondled and kissed her against her will.

Hess said the same thing happened to her from 1970 to 1973.

"What he did was abuse his power," Hess said. "I was young. How can I understand?"

Poole, 80, is retired and living in a Jesuit home in Spokane, Wash.

He came to Alaska in 1948 as seminarian and started working for the Fairbanks diocese in 1957, according to the Jane Doe lawsuit. He worked in Nome for 22 years before he left in 1986 to serve as a hospital chaplain in Tacoma until 2002, church officials said.

Reached earlier this month, Poole referred questions to the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, which oversees Alaska. Last month, Poole called Jane Doe's claims "highly inflammatory and highly exaggerated."

The Diocese of Fairbanks said two people have made sexual abuse allegations against Poole. The Rev. Richard Case, the diocese's chancellor, would not confirm whether Hess was the second, citing privacy concerns. Jane Doe was the first.

Hess, 47, now lives in Anchorage.

Hess was 13 when she moved to Nome. Her mother drowned when Hess was 11, and after her mother's death, she was sexually abused by her stepfather, she said.

Hess attended the Catholic Church and met Poole, in whom she confided.

"Because he was a priest, I trusted him," she said. "I went to him for personal guidance."

She said Poole kissed and fondled her in private at a dance hall, at the Catholic radio station he founded, KNOM, and at St. Joseph's Church.

Hess returned to Kotzebue when she was about 16 and never saw Poole again.

She wanted the church to know about her accusations but is not sure what she wants the results to be. She does not care about money, she said, but would like to see Poole face criminal charges.

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