Lawsuit Accuses Minister of Sexually Abusing Girl

By William C. Lhotka
St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Missouri]
August 25, 2006

A girl and her parents sued a Lutheran minister Thursday, alleging sex abuse during the summer of 2004 in his office at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Sappington.

The defendants in the six-count civil suit are the Rev. Chris Joseph Watson, the church at 9907 Sappington Road, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Kirkwood.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Gary M. Gaertner Jr. allowed use of the pseudonym Mary Doe for the girl, and John and Jane Doe for her parents, as requested by their attorneys, Susan Carlson and Kenneth Chakes.

Besides the civil suit, Carlson said, the matter has been turned over to Sunset Hills police detectives for a criminal investigation. She said the victim was under the age of 14 when the sexual abuse took place.

The suit says Mary Doe has been a member of the congregation at Resurrection Church since 2003. In the summer of 2004, the victim was in Watson's office "when he fondled her and touched her sexually with the intention to obtain sexual gratification," the suit says.

The petition calls the acts "outrageous and repugnant to a civilized society," and seeks unspecified compensatory, statutory, punitive and treble damages.

In naming Resurrection and the Missouri Synod, the suit says all of the acts of sexual abuse took place while Watson had "custody or control of plaintiff in his role as a minister and authority figure."

The suit says also that the church hierarchy failed to report Watson's alleged misdeeds to law enforcement, to other parishioners or to the public.

A Resurrection official said Watson was no longer a minister at that church and referred questions to a downtown lawyer, who could not be reached. Watson could not be located for comment.

David Strand, communications director for the Missouri Synod, said he could not comment on pending litigation. He said the synod has a zero-tolerance policy on the sexual abuse of children. 314-615-3283


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