Friday, February 4, 2011

Venice friar
Venice priest at heart of sexual abuse inquiry
ABUSE CLAIMS: Officials say more than one child may have fallen victim
By Dale White

Published: Friday, February 4, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 7:36 p.m.
( page of 3 )

SARASOTA COUNTY - A Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a Nokomis boy may have victimized other local children, according to evidence seized from his computer.

Related Links:UPDATE: Venice priest faces more sex abuse charges Key Documents:2007 complaint against William C. Wert (PDF - 720kb)

Click to enlarge
Wert Sarasota County Sheriff's officials said Tuesday they drew that conclusion based on "Internet communications" found on William C. Wert's computer, which was taken from the church-owned house he shares with two other priests in Venice.

Sheriff's officials did not describe the specifics of the communications or other evidence related to other children.

"We suspect one or more victims may be local. Others may be in other locations in the state," said Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Bell.

Deputies arrested the 53-year-old Wert Tuesday on two counts of lewd or lascivious battery of a child. Additional charges related to the same boy were added Thursday.

Arrest documents indicate Wert is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old boy from September to January at several locations. Those include Wert's home in the 200 block of Harbor Drive South, an empty house and a motel room.

The allegations were made by the boy and his father after the father found inappropriate messages on his son's cell phone.

Catholic Diocese of Venice officials said Wert was not assigned to any of the local churches they oversee and was not publicly ministering.

Wert is a friar and ordained priest with the Order of Carmelites, a centuries-old Catholic brotherhood that takes vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. As such, he is not supervised by the Venice diocese.

No comments: