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Priest extradited to face charges

By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2002


LARGO -- A Catholic priest charged last month with sexually assaulting two 11-year-old boys in the 1980s was extradited to Pinellas on Thursday as prosecutors considered an additional charge against him.

LARGO -- A Catholic priest charged last month with sexually assaulting two 11-year-old boys in the 1980s was extradited to Pinellas on Thursday as prosecutors considered an additional charge against him.

Two Pinellas sheriff's detectives returned the Rev. Robert L. Schaeufele, 54, to the Pinellas County Jail at about 5 p.m. after a flight from Detroit. Schaeufele has been jailed in Wayne County since his May 31 arrest on two capital sexual battery charges.

Schaeufele, who waived extradition to Florida, is held on $500,000 bail. His first appearance before a Pinellas-Pasco judge will be this afternoon. Pinellas prosecutors say they will be considering an additional capital sexual battery charge against Schaeufele within the next two weeks, based on an additional complaint since his arrest.

"It's a distinct possibility," said prosecutor Tim Hessinger.

Schaeufele's Pinellas attorney did not return a call for comment on Thursday.

Joseph H. Saunders, attorney for nine men who say the priest abused them when they were boys, said other victims have approached him since Schaeufele's arrest.

Hessinger said his office is concentrating on cases in which charges might be filed.

To file charges, the victim must have been 12 or younger at the time the abuse occurred. And the abuse must be severe enough to charge capital sexual battery. Other cases involving lesser charges, or older victims, are barred by the statute of limitations.

So far, Hessinger said, he knows of only one case that might meet that criteria.

Schaeufele served 27 years in the Diocese of St. Petersburg before he resigned from a church in Pasco in mid-April after being confronted with allegations of abuse.

He was the first priest in the Tampa Bay area to be charged with sexual abuse since a national scandal engulfed the church earlier this year.

He is accused of assaulting two boys while he served at Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Pinellas Park from 1983 to 1985.

-- Times staff writer Waveney Ann Moore contributed to this report.

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