Authorities investigating 20 to 30 sexual abuse complaints against Saginaw church officials

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SAGINAW (WJRT) (3/12/2018) - Sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw may extend beyond the Rev. Robert DeLand.

The 71-year-old DeLand is accused in two sexual abuse complaints brought by a 17-year-old from Tittabawassee Township and a 22-year-old from Saginaw Township. He was arrested Feb. 25.

Since the arrest, authorities have received 20 to 30 more credible allegations of sexual abuse involving DeLand and possibly other Catholic church officials, said Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner.

He did not name any of the clergy from the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw named in the other complaints.

DeLand appeared in court Monday for a conference to see whether he and his attorney are ready for a preliminary hearing later this month. They asked for and received a delay.

"He needs to receive substantial discovery materials, reports, audio/video discs and the like," Gaertner said.

The preliminary hearing will be set for another date.

DeLand faces three criminal charges, including second degree sexual assault and gross indecency between males.

Gaertner said one of the new complaints came from a woman who inquired with church officials in 2005 about her brother's death. Her brother had a relationship with DeLand in the 1970s and committed suicide in 1993.

The diocese already has acknowledged receiving the claim 13 years ago. A private investigator looked into the allegations and eventually everyone involved in the probe, including the woman and her family, were satisfied the concerns were unfounded.

Gaertner is concerned that police were not originally called to investigate.

"It raises concerns that whenever something like this happens, it should be turned over to law enforcement," he said. "They have the best mechanisms to conduct a proper investigation."

Gaertner said the investigation into the 2005 allegations and the others are continuing. Authorities from the prosecutor's office, local police, state police and federal authorities have formed a task force to investigate all of the claims.

"We are not going to be deterred by anything or anyone," Gaertner said. "We are going to follow the evidence and see where it takes us."



 
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