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Ex-priest admits that he tried to molest boy

Sentenced to 30 years, Robert Schaeufele does not look at his victim, whom he took in as a lonely youngster.

By CHASE SQUIRES
Published July 4, 2003

DADE CITY - Disgraced Catholic priest Robert Schaeufele never said he was sorry.

Schaeufele, 55, pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted capital sexual battery in a deal with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty last month to two identical counts in Pinellas County. He was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in prison, to be served concurrently with the 30-year term he received in the Pinellas cases.

Because he was sentenced under laws in effect at the time of the offense, Schaeufele will likely serve about 17 of the 30 years, prosecutor Tim Hessinger said.

Schaeufele, his hands shackled, a chain wrapped around the waist of his blue, jail-issued jumpsuit, answered Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb's questions with one- or two-word replies Thursday morning. He hesitated slightly when asked if the charge was true, then admitted "the attempted" part of the charge was true.

He was fingerprinted. He was led from the courtroom.

Schaeufele never acknowledged that his victim, Jeff Rozanowski, was present. He never looked at the 25-year-old man. He never apologized.

Rozanowski, who agreed to make his name public, could have fought the plea arrangement. He could have pushed prosecutors to go ahead on the original charge of capital sexual battery, which carries a life sentence.

"I have mixed emotions," he said outside the courtroom. "He was like a father to me. I feel like I lost a father."

Rozanowski was 7 in 1985 when "Father Bob" took him in. The boy's parents were estranged. His father was gone from his life, and his mother was struggling with alcohol.

Schaeufele stepped in, Rozanowski said.

"I'd go over to his house after school. We'd play video games after his appointments. He'd take me to McDonald's," Rozanowski said. "He was everything to me."

But the priest at St. Rita Catholic Church also molested him.

Hessinger described to the judge how the priest sexually abused the boy for years, well into his teenage years.

Rozanowski said he came forward only after reading reports of the Pinellas charges against Schaeufele.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "It was like, I was reading the stories, and I was thinking, "Hey, this is my life.'

"Now, looking back, I wonder if he was setting me up, taking advantage of my situation."

Rozanowski said he has moved on. He is trying to get to know his father. He has a girlfriend.

But the pain Schaeufele left endures.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about it," he said. "He knows what he's done."

- Chase Squires covers east Pasco courts. He can be reached at 352 521-5757, ext. 27, or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 27. His e-mail address is squires@sptimes.com

[Last modified July 4, 2003, 01:47:38]


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