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Two Women Latest to File Sex Abuse Suits Against Lavigne

Mar 6, 2003 | AP

Two women who say they were sexually abused by the Rev. Richard Lavigne when they were children are suing the priest, who pleaded guilty a decade ago to molesting two altar boys.

The women are the latest to file civil suits against Lavigne. Thirteen men have filed suit against the priest in Hampden Superior Court.

Susan Morris, 46, of East Longmeadow, and Elizabeth Germond, 45, of Guilford, Conn., are also suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, accusing church officials of not protecting them.

Morris' lawsuit was filed in Hampden Superior Court; Germond's was filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield. Both were filed Wednesday by their lawyer, John Stobierski.

Morris says Lavigne abused her during confession and religious services at St. Mary's Church in Springfield when she was 11 or 12. Morris, who is a nurse, also says she was abused at Lavigne's parents' house in Ashfield.

Germond, who is an artist, says Lavigne molested her between the ages of 8 and 17. She said the abuse happened at churches where Lavigne preached in Easthampton, Holyoke and Springfield.

"Her family was close with Lavigne," Stobierski said. "They trusted him to be with their daughter."

Lavigne's lawyer, Max Stern, did not return a telephone call Thursday to The Associated Press. In a written statement, Msgr. Richard Sniezyk of the Springfield Diocese refused to comment on the cases.

Lavigne, who lives in Chicopee, was charged in 1991 with five counts of sexual abuse. He pleaded guilty a year later to molesting two boys and the other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to a rehabilitation center for several months and placed on 10 years probation.

In the 1990s, the diocese settled suits for $1.4 million with 17 men, who accused Lavigne of abusing them. Within the past year another 13 men, who claim they were abused as children, have sued Lavigne and the diocese.

The diocese has started the process of defrocking Lavigne.

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