Tulsa County court jury issues split verdict on priest sexual abuse lawsuits

Monday, October 18th 2004, 6:12 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Jurors in a pair of lawsuits over allegations that a Claremore Roman Catholic priest molested a Tulsa boy more than 25 years ago issued a split verdict Monday, ruling against the accuser on sexual battery and against the pastor in his slander and libel claim.

The panel of eight women and four men needed about two hours to reach their decision, which was unanimous that evidence failed to support Kelly Kirk's sexual abuse allegation and 11-1 that the Kirks did not slander or libel the Rev. Paul Eichhoff.

Eichhoff sued Kelly Kirk and his father Gordon Kirk in August 2002 after Kelly Kirk's allegation that Eichhoff had abused him and another unnamed boy in the late 1970s surfaced.

Kelly Kirk counter sued, seeking monetary compensation for emotional damages from the abuse, which Kirk said was a repressed memory that resurfaced during a 2000 therapy session.

Kelly Kirk, now 35, claimed Eichhoff molested him and the other boy twice when they were students at St. Mary's Catholic Church school in Tulsa. Eichhoff was associate pastor at the church from 1975 to 1978 and repeatedly denied sexually abusing anyone.

The Catholic Diocese of Tulsa suspended Eichhoff, 59, from his pastorate duties at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Claremore in August 2002 after the allegations came to light.

But Eichhoff was reinstated in November of that year after a diocese review board concluded the allegations were groundless and the reverend posed no threat to parish children.