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Church Sued Over Man's Suicide

April 19, 2003|Jean Guccione and William Lobdell | Times Staff Writers

The parents of a 36-year-old man who committed suicide last year sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Friday, alleging their son took his life because he suffered emotionally from childhood sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic brother.

The wrongful-death suit alleges that Richard Lukasiewicz hung himself 12 hours after being admitted to a Pasadena psychiatric hospital last April, despondent over being molested as a student at John Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead.

"The horror and betrayal associated with years of sexual abuse drove Richard Jr. into severe depression," the suit alleges. "The sexual abuse stole Richard Jr.'s youth, it took his self-esteem and drained his ability to cope."

Attorney Raymond P. Boucher, who represents dozens of clients who allege they have been molested by clergy, said Lukasiewicz tried to overcome the mental distress he suffered as a result of years of molestation. He took yoga classes and confided in friends and family.

"He frankly wanted to live," Boucher said. "But he just could not cope on a daily basis with what this 'Brother Mark' did to him." Boucher said he doesn't yet know the alleged perpetrator's full name.

Plaintiffs' attorneys say hundreds of claims alleging childhood sexual abuse could be filed against the Catholic Church in California this year. They are negotiating with church lawyers to try to reach an out-of-court settlement.

This case is unusual because it was filed by the family of an alleged molestation victim, blaming the church for the suicide.

Lukasiewicz's suicide "underscores just how significant the [emotional] damages are and how overwhelming the pain is" for victims of child sexual abuse, Boucher said.

Besides the archdiocese, the suit also names as defendants Lukasiewicz's alleged abuser, the Salesians of St. John Bosco (the religious order that runs the school where the molestation allegedly took place), the hospital where he died and his psychiatrist. It seeks unspecified monetary damages for childhood sexual abuse, negligence, medical malpractice and wrongful death.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles declined to comment on the suit Friday, saying he had not yet seen it.

Boucher said the molestation began during a camping trip in 1979, when Lukasiewicz was about 11, and continued for four years. He said the victim spent the next nine years trying to overcome the emotional damage of molestation. He said he filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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