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Priest, music teacher accused of sex abuse

By Times Staff
Published September 29, 2005

TAMPA - Two more lawsuits have been filed against Tampa's Mary Help of Christians School, accusing a priest and a music teacher of sexually abusing boys in their care.

Eight suits now have been filed since 2002 accusing priests or teachers of child molestation. The two recent suits were filed Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

One says the plaintiff enrolled in the school in 1980 for the sixth grade. On 20 or more occasions starting in September 1982, a music teacher sexually abused him, the suit says.

Years after the music teacher left the school in 1984, he continued to have a sexual relationship with the plaintiff, the suit says.

The second suit says the plaintiff enrolled in the school in 1989 in the sixth grade.

After catching the boy urinating behind the school, a priest called him to the back of the altar and prayed while he fondled the boy, the suit says.

Both suits say the plaintiffs suffered psychological damage. Each seeks more than $5-million in damages from defendants, the Salesian Society and Mary Help of Christian Schools.

Day care worker accused of shaking boy is felon

TAMPA - She is a woman of God. She sings in the choir and goes to Bible study. She's not who she used to be - the 13 arrests, the felony cocaine conviction - all that is long gone. Dorothy Monroe is a new woman, or at least that's what she told authorities.

Nearly a week after police arrested Monroe, 44, on charges that she shook a baby boy so violently that his brain was badly bruised, documents released by the Florida Department of Children and Families on Wednesday shed light on Monroe's journey from felon to licensed day care worker.

Police arrested Monroe on Sept. 22, two months after Melanie Hall, mother of the infant, took him to University Community Hospital. Hall reported that her son seemed lethargic after she picked him up from the Tampa day care Monroe helped run.

Under Florida law, anyone convicted of serious crimes is automatically disqualified for child care licensing. But in some cases exemptions are granted.

DCF spokesman Andy Ritter said most who are disqualified after a background check don't elect to undergo further scrutiny.

"People need to prove that they've been rehabilitated. I think in a lot of cases that's why people don't go through the exemption process," Ritter said. "It's a lot of trouble to get all that information and basically have your life scrutinized."

But last year Monroe decided to make the effort. In September 2004, DCF officials rejected her application to become a child care provider after a background check revealed her arrests and a 1991 felony conviction for possession of cocaine. About a month later she applied for an exemption.

"I am a woman of God," Monroe wrote. "I'm very happily married. We have three wonderful girls, all over 24 years old. We live a very conservative homelife. My family and I play a very important role in our neighborhood watch, community effort."

[Last modified September 29, 2005, 01:18:09]

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