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Church responds to abuse charges

RELATED: See more crime news from the Fredericksburg region

MORE: Read more Stafford County news

Priests at a Stafford County Catholic church are ready to handle any concerns that arise from the news that a former church member faces 111 felonies involving child molestation.

A Stafford grand jury indicted Thomas Francis Villacres on those charges Monday. Villacres, a former chairman of the Stafford County School Board, now lives in Florida.

While living in Stafford, Villacres was a member of St. William of York Catholic Church in North Stafford.

The Rev. Robert DeMartino is prepared to answer any questions parishioners may have about Villacres and the charges, said Michael Donohue, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. And if anyone comes forward to report abuse, DeMartino would encourage them to contact law enforcement, Donohue said.

The priest also plans to announce Villacres’ arrest, although those plans are not concrete yet. Church bulletins were printed Monday, before the charges against Villacres were published in the newspaper, Donohue said.

In a 2005 campaign questionnaire submitted to The Free Lance–Star, Villacres said he was involved in education programs at St. William of York. Donohue said Villacres taught catechism classes, but records did not reflect the age of the students. According to the newspaper’s archives, he also taught Spanish at North Stafford High School for a year in the mid-1990s.

Villacres has been charged with 48 counts of aggravated sexual battery, 48 counts of indecent liberties with a minor and 15 counts of object sexual penetration.

The Virginia chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests issued a call Thursday for the Stafford school system and the Catholic diocese to encourage any other possible victims to come forward.

Villacres was an officer in the Army and Army Reserve from 1980 to 1993. He lived on Arbor Lane when he ran for re-election to the School Board in 2005.

He is currently on suspension from his government job in Florida. He is awaiting extradition to Virginia.

The alleged offenses took place during an eight-year period in the 1990s and involved four children who were between the ages of 6 and 10, said Stafford Sheriff’s Office spokesman Bill Kennedy.

The Sheriff’s Office has asked individuals who have information on the case to contact Detective Pat Tudor at 540/658-4450.

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

 

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