Too much time has passed for Wichita clergy accused of child crime to be charged, DA says

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A priest cannot be prosecuted for sexual abuse of a child that allegedly occurred while he worked at a Catholic church in Wichita in the 1990s because too much time has passed, the Sedgwick County district attorney said Wednesday.

The crimes are alleged to have occurred when the Rev. Michael Schemm worked at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton between June 1993 and July 1996. The alleged victim was between 12 and 15 years old at the time and is now 40.

Schemm, who was placed on leave in November, is currently listed as being a priest at the Church of the Resurrection, 4910 N. Woodlawn in Bel Aire.

In this case, the Kansas statute of limitations (the maximum amount of time that an accused would have had to be brought to court) would have expired no later than 2001, District Attorney Marc Bennett said. If there had been any exceptions that would have paused the statute of limitations, the case could not have been charged anyway after the victim turned 28 in 2009, he said.

“The reporting party in this situation reported the incident to the diocese on behalf of the alleged victim,” Bennett wrote in the findings of his investigation. “The behavior alleged by the reporting party did not involve any allegation of physical touching.”

Bennett’s news release suggests that the alleged crime might have fallen under a section of the state’s sexual exploitation of a child law that includes inducing or coercing a child to “exhibition in the nude.”

Bishop Carl Kemme placed Schemm on administrative leave on Nov. 1, after the allegation was brought forward. Since leaving St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Schemm has continually worked at parishes in the state, Bennett said.

This isn’t the first time a priest in the diocese has been accused of crimes against a child.

In fall 2019, Kemme apologized to victims in a seven-minute YouTube video that was released along with a list of 15 priests with “substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Nine of the priests had allegations that occurred in the diocese. The other six served in the diocese but had allegations in other dioceses.

Of the 15 priests in the Wichita diocese, only one had been charged, a diocese spokesperson said at the time. Rev. Robert K. Larson, who died in 2014, pleaded guilty in 2001 in Harvey County District Court to abusing three altar boys and a 19-year-old man while he was pastor at St. Mary Catholic Church in Newton in the mid-1980s. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

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