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Three Priests Charged With Sexual Child Abuse

February 15, 1995

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) _ Three Roman Catholic priests were arrested Wednesday and charged with sexual child abuse during the 1970s.

Prince George’s County police say the priests turned themselves in after being advised there were warrants against them.

Father Alphonsus Smith, 70, was charged with abusing two youths in 1975 while assigned to Saint Matthias Church in Lanham.

Father Edward Pritchard, 50, was charged with abusing one youth in 1974 and another in 1976 while assigned to Saint Matthias. Father Edward Hartel, 58, is charged with one count of abuse while visiting the church in 1975.

Police said the alleged victims now are 34, 29 and 31 years old. Conviction of sexual child abuse carries a penalty of up to 15 years in jail. There is no statute of limitations on the charge.

The Archdiocese of Washington disclosed last week that four parish priests had admitted molesting an altar boy at Saint Matthias in the 1970s.

Prince George’s police spokesman Al Gibson said a fourth priest named by the archdiocese, Father Thomas Schaeffer, had not been charged. But Gibson said the investigation is continuing.

The priests were removed from their parish assignments after admitting they sexually abused the same altar boy during the 1970s.

The Washington Archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday saying the entire situation ``is a source of great sorrow to the archdiocese. We continue to pray for all those involved in this tragedy, most especially the victims, the parish communities and the priests themselves.″

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