Charges Never Filed in Ohio County Against Pittsburgh Priest
WHEELING — A grand jury report on clergy abuse in six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania includes the names of a priest who later served at a Clarksburg church and a priest who allegedly visited Wheeling bars with a teen boy.
The second priest, the Rev. David F. Dzermejko, from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, has never been charged in connection with an alleged “sexual encounter” with the boy in the late 1980s in Wheeling.
Asked about the incident, Ohio County Prosecutor Scott Smith said Thursday, “I don’t recall anything like that being reported.
“We could not find any letter or reference regarding David Dzermejko or Diocese of Pittsburgh,” he said after checking the records of the prosecutor’s office.
Smith said the state of West Virginia doesn’t have a statute of limitations for such offenses, but said “it doesn’t make it easy to prosecute” cases from many years ago.
According to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Dzermejko was arrested in Pennsylvania for possession of child pornography in April 2013.
Dzermejko pleaded guilty in federal court and was sentenced to three years in prison. He began serving that sentence in June 2014.
The grand jury report said the Vatican dismissed Dzermejko from the clerical state in 2015. The grand jury report and the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s website do not indicate his current location.
Tim Bishop, spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said Thursday that the priest was never stationed here.
“He (Dzermejko) was a never a priest of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” he said.
The spokesman said there were “absolutely not” any records of crimes allegedly committed by Dzermejko “in any diocesan file.”
“We would have no idea who he was, where he was,” said Bishop. “We would have no knowledge of that.”
The grand jury report alleges Dzermejko, who was serving as a priest in the Pittsburgh diocese, took a teen boy to bars in Wheeling in the late 1980s while the boy was living in Cambridge, Ohio. The victim is not identified in the report.
The victim contacted the Diocese of Pittsburgh on Jan. 31, 2012. The grand jury report stated: “This adult male reported that he was sexually abused by Dzermejko in the late 1980s when he was 15 to 16 years of age. In correspondence to the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Ohio County, West Virginia, it was noted by Diocesan counsel that the victim had called the Diocese several times in the past but did not leave his name.
Only after speaking with the prosecutor’s office did the victim decide to give more complete information.”
The assistant prosecuting attorney is not identified in the report. The grand jury did not indicate who contacted the Ohio County prosecutor’s office or when the contact was made.
According to the grand jury report, the victim said he had “sexual encounters” with Dzermejko on four occasions. One of the incidents allegedly occurred outside the True Colors bar in the Elm Grove section of Wheeling.
Meanwhile, the other priest with ties to West Virginia is the Rev. Raymond Lukac, from the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Lukac was accused of being romantically involved with an 18-year-old woman in 1955 and, a year later, with a 17-year-old girl whom he secretly married after she turned 18. He served as a priest in the Diocese of Gary, Indiana, from 1961-63.
According to the grand jury report, Lukac was assigned Jan. 16, 1964, as a priest at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Clarksburg. He was accepted into the Diocese of Wheeling after the Most Rev. Joseph Hodges, who was then bishop, agreed to place Lukac in ministry.
The diocesan spokesman said Lukac served in Clarksburg “a little more than three years, 54 years ago.”
Bishop said there is no evidence of Lukac committing any offenses during his time in West Virginia.
Asked about any complaints, the diocesan spokesman said, “There were none — that is both according to our diocesan records and the Pennsylvania grand jury report.”
Hodges served as bishop of Wheeling-Charleston from 1962 until his death in 1985.
Regarding Hodges’ motivation for allowing Lukac to serve, Bishop said, “It would be great if we could ask him, but unfortunately we cannot.
“There are a number of reasons why he (Hodges) could have done that,” he said. “We could give inference, but it would be foolish for us to do that.”
The Diocese of Greensburg’s website lists Lukac as having left ministry. The website and the grand jury report do not indicate his current location.