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Archive for Saturday, July 31, 2004

Crowd speaks out against pedophile priest’s release

July 31, 2004

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— Dozens of people spoke out Thursday against the possible prison release of a Roman Catholic priest who admitted molesting four young men.

Robert Larson, a former Diocese of Wichita priest, is expected to go before the Kansas Parole Board on Wednesday to plead his case for release. Larson was defrocked after saying he sexually abused three altar boys and a teenage boy at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton.

Some who gathered at the Finney State Office Building on Thursday defended Larson; but the night was largely about the former priest's victims and their advocates.

Janet Patterson of Conway Springs said granting Larson parole, which the board refused two years ago, would be "like a stab in the heart."

Patterson's oldest son, Eric, committed suicide in 1999 after telling his family Larson molested him when he was an altar boy in the early 1980s. Larson has denied molesting Patterson's son along with four other young men who served Mass for him and later committed suicide.

Larson was a priest for 30 years before being removed in 1998 under allegations of misconduct. Three years ago, he admitted molesting three altar boys and a teenage boy -- two of whom spoke Thursday -- and was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. He is serving time at Lansing Correctional Facility.

Monsignor William Carr was among a handful of priests to ask the two Parole Board members to release Larson.

"What a pity that we forget the many, many outstanding things that this man has done," Carr said.

A ruling on Larson's parole is expected in September. Regardless of the Parole Board's decision, prison guidelines in place at the time of the crimes mandate that Larson can't be held any later than March 29, 2006.

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