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Priests' Accuser Passes Lie Detector

Church: Lori Haigh says two O.C. clerics ignored her pleas for help. Test's administrator says, 'She's telling the truth.'

April 05, 2002|WILLIAM LOBDELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lori Haigh, who won a million-dollar settlement from the Roman Catholic Church this week, passed a lie-detector test Thursday in her attempt to prove allegations that two priests--now top officials in the Diocese of Orange--ignored her pleas for help 20 years ago.

In a press conference Monday, Msgr. Lawrence J. Baird, the high-profile diocesan spokesman, threatened Haigh with a defamation of character lawsuit.

She had earlier in the day named him as the unidentified priest in her lawsuit who she claims kissed, hugged and rubbed himself against her after she confessed to him a relationship with another priest. She said she was 16 at the time.

Haigh, now 37, also named Msgr. John Urell, vicar general of the Orange diocese, as the other unidentified priest in the lawsuit. She alleges that he called her a liar when she told him about her sexual relationship with Father John Lenihan and told her to stay away from the church.

Urell, who was out of town this week, has denied the allegations, church officials said. The monsignor handles the accusations of priest sexual abuse for the diocese.

"This is just yet another indiction of a victim telling the truth and being further victimized by a priest who threatened a defamation lawsuit," said Katherine K. Freberg, Haigh's attorney. "We challenge Msgr. Baird to take a lie-detector test from a qualified polygrapher."

Baird and other church officials could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Haigh's lawsuit alleged Lenihan sexually molested her, got her pregnant at age 16 and paid for the abortion. Lenihan has not admitted to any of the allegations.

The two-hour lie-detector test, which was paid for by Haigh, was administered in Los Angeles by Dr. Edward I. Gelb, past president of the American Polygraph Assn.

He said Haigh scored "plus-15" on the test, adding that only plus-4 is needed as conclusive evidence that she was not lying about her meetings with Baird and Urell.

"She's telling the truth," said Gelb, whose celebrity clients include the parents of JonBenet Ramsey and Snoop Dogg.

Haigh, a San Francisco mother of two, said she quickly set up the test because she felt "re-victimized" when Baird told the media he did not remember meeting her, has never made "inappropriate contact" with anyone in 33 years as a priest and has "no idea what motivates her to make such an insidious allegation."

Haigh had attended Baird's press conference, saying she didn't think he could lie to her face.

"It crushed me," she said. "It reminded me of Urell telling me in his office that I was lying. And there was Baird, telling the world I was a liar."

In settling Haigh's lawsuit, Bishop of Orange Tod D. Brown said, "[I am] deeply sorry for the hurt caused by the actions of Father Lenihan, and extend my apology to Ms. Haigh."

Haigh said she broke down and cried when Gelb told her the test results.

"I couldn't control myself," she said. "I haven't cried like that in years. It was a great release."

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