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Published: 4/19/2008

Priest in sex-assault case arrested in '98

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Kummerer Kummerer
HANDOUT NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
Murd Murd
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

A Catholic priest under investigation by Sylvania Township police on an accusation of sexual assault was arrested nearly 10 years earlier for public indecency.

The Rev. Frank Murd, 66, who resigned last week as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maumee, was arrested in the summer of 1998 at Wolf Creek Park in Sandusky County. Records of that arrest have been sealed.

A second Toledo diocesan priest, the Rev. Tim Kummerer, 51, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Defiance, also was arrested for public indecency at Wolf Creek Park the same summer. Those records also have been sealed.

Father Murd and Father Kummerer could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Colleen Buckman, assistant director of communications for the diocese, said Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair has no plans to discipline Father Kummerer for the 1998 arrest.

"At the time of the incident, he satisfied the requirements of the court and of [former] Bishop [James] Hoffman. He is not under investigation and is not being removed from ministry," she said.

First-time offenders can have their records sealed by filing an application with the court and presiding judge.

Once a judge agrees to seal the record, no one involved in the case is allowed to discuss it.

Steve Gruner, director of Sandusky County Parks, said rangers regularly conducted undercover operations at Wolf Creek, which is south of Fremont.

"It was part of our regular patrol routine in all of our parks. We use plainclothes techniques from time to time," Mr. Gruner said. "We have made a number of arrests there over the last 20 years and in the last five to 10 years those arrest numbers have decreased dramatically."

He said he does not remember any priests being arrested.

Todd Nofzinger, a former Sandusky County park ranger, said yesterday that he arrested about 50 men at Wolf Creek Park over a 10-year period starting in 1996.

He said he does not remember arresting any priests and, even if he did, he would not discuss a case that has been sealed.

The News-Messenger in Fremont reported on Feb. 15, 1999, that Father Murd's and Father Kummerer's cases were "dismissed, as diversion program successfully completed."

The Blade reported in 2000 that two priests had been arrested at Wolf Creek the previous year.

A Fremont Municipal Court document provided to The Blade shows that Father Murd's 1998 record was sealed on Feb. 24, 1999.

Reports filed by several rangers who made undercover arrests at Wolf Creek Park in 1998 gave similar descriptions of the crimes: An officer was inside a stall in the park restroom when a male subject entered the stall, exposed himself, and began masturbating. The park ranger then identified himself and made an arrest.

In addition to Father Murd's investigation by Sylvania Township police, the Toledo diocese said yesterday that it is conducting its own investigation into the sexual assault accusation.

"A canonical investigation is still ongoing," Ms. Buckman said yesterday.

Father Murd agreed to resign last week as pastor of St. Joseph's in Maumee, the diocese's fifth largest parish with 6,690 members, and was sent to a residential treatment center after meeting with Bishop Blair on April 7.

The priest informed the bishop that he was under investigation for an accusation of improper sexual contact with an adult, according to the diocese.

The Sylvania prosecutor said it could be several weeks before a decision is made on whether to file charges.

The church, meanwhile, is conducting its own investigation in accordance with canon law, the rules guiding the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.

The incident is reported to have occurred in a hot tub at the Jewish Community Center in Sylvania Township between 9:30 and 10 p.m. March 18, according to township police. An unidentified male called police at about 11:30 that night.

In an unrelated case, Father Murd was charged in Toledo Municipal Court with criminal trespassing in September, 1990, after a Rossford man claimed that the priest forced his way into his hotel room to search for students he believed were partying there.

Father Murd was principal of Cardinal Stritch High School and said at the time that he went to the motel after hearing rumors that underage Stritch students were drinking and partying there.

The charges were dismissed in February, 1991.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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