Fulton's First Presbyterian named in lawsuit

A local church has been named one of the defendants in a lawsuit that also includes Jack Wayne Rogers, accusing Rogers of sexually assaulting the plaintiff when he was a child in 2000.

In a suit filed in the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Callaway County on April 14, Kristopher D. Schondelmeyer, formerly of Fulton, names First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, Missouri Union Presbytery, Synod of Mid-America, Presbyterian Church Inc. (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation, Bruce W. Berry and Jack Wayne Rogers as defendants.

According to Schondelmeyer's petition, the current lawsuit is being brought "in order to hold the Defendants responsible" for the abuse he allegedly suffered by Rogers in 2000.

The petition alleges the defendants knew Rogers had previously been convicted on child pornography charges, and had knowingly put youth at risk "by placing Rogers in direct authority over minor children" and failing to provide supervision.

The suit specifically names First Presbyterian Church and Berry as having appointed Rogers to be a lay minister for the Presbyterian Church of Bellflower in Montgomery County.

Rebecca Randles, one of Schondelmeyer's attorneys, further specified that Berry was the director of the Missouri Presbytery at the time and was the one who placed Rogers in Bellflower.

The suit states the alleged abuse took place during the Connection 2000 Youth Conference in Maryland, for which Rogers was a chaperone for Schondelmeyer and several other teenagers from Fulton and other area Presbyterian churches.

Randles said that in 2000 Rogers was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, and it was that congregation which chose him to go to the conference as a chaperone.

Calls to the First Presbyterian Church of Fulton were referred to the church's attorney, Rachel D. Stahle of Kansas City. Stahle said her firm does not comment on pending litigation.

According to the suit, Schondelmeyer and his family were taught by the church to trust and obey Rogers in his role as chaperone and lay minister.

The suit claims Rogers used that authority and position of trust to take advantage of Schondelmeyer and engage him in non-consensual sexual acts.

Schondelmeyer's lawsuit includes counts of sexual abuse and/or battery, negligent failure to supervise children, negligent supervision of pastor, intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional failure to supervise pastor, conspiracy to commit fraud or constructive fraud and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The suit asks for compensatory and punitive damages, legal fees and "other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate and just." A jury trial is also "demanded." Schondelmeyer filed a criminal complaint in Maryland in April 2013, but was told the criminal statute of limitations had expired, according to a press release.

The suit does not give Schondelmeyer's age at the time of the alleged abuse, but does state he is currently 30 years old.

In a press release from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Schondelmeyer - himself now a Presbyterian Minister living in Kansas City -said the purpose of his lawsuit is to encourage other potential victims to come forward.

"My biggest fear isn't whether or not Presbyterian Church officials will do what is good and right and just," Schondelmeyer said in the press release from SNAP. "It's that there might be other victims who are suffering in silence.

"To others who have been hurt by Jack Wayne Rogers, I encourage you to speak with local authorities or to reach out to SNAP, and to find a safe and trusted counselor to work towards healing. This is not your fault."

He also stressed that he still trusts and believes in his church.

"I truly love this denomination and have great faith in the goodness of the Presbyterian Church," Schondelmeyer said in the release. "There is much compassion and mercy in my heart, and I would rather stand with church leaders than against them to work together to create safe and sacred space for children and youth."

According to an Associated Press article from November 2003, Rogers, formerly of Fulton, was convicted on child pornography charges in 1992.

According to court documents with the U.S. Court of Appeals, he pleaded guilty in November 2003 to two counts of possession of child pornography, five counts of distribution of child pornography and three counts of distribution of obscene materials, for which he was sentenced to 30 years. Rogers appealed that sentence, but it was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in September 2005.

Rogers pleaded guilty in September 2004 to felony charges of first-degree assault and unauthorized practice of medicine or surgery, for which he was sentenced to 17 years and seven years respectively.

The charges stemmed from an incident in which Rogers illegally castrated a man in a Columbia hotel in October 2002.

Rogers, 69, is currently being held at the Federal Corrections Institute in Miami.

Katherine Cummins can be reached at (573) 826-2418 or [email protected].