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Sexual assault arrest warrant issued for former priest who worked at 5 North Texas churches

Richard Thomas Brown was recently defrocked, according to the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. He is accused of aggravated sexual assault of a child in 1989.
Credit: WFAA
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas

Updated at 10:41 p.m. to reflect arrest. 

Dallas police this week obtained an arrest warrant for a 78-year-old priest accusing him of molesting a child in North Texas in the 1980s.

Richard Thomas Brown was accused Tuesday of aggravated sexual assault of a child with an offense date of July 5, 1989, Dallas County records show. It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday which church Brown was assigned to when the alleged incident occurred.

Brown was arrested Wednesday in Missouri, jail records show. 

The arrest warrant is the first issued since a police search last year at the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. Brown is one of five priests still alive who Dallas police investigated in connection with allegations of child abuse. 

RELATED: Former Dallas priest arrested in Missouri on sex assault charge from 1989

He admitted to Dallas police last year that allegations that he had molested as many as 50 children since he was ordained were true, court records show.

He is only criminally accused in one of those incidents. 

In an email sent Wednesday, spokeswoman Annette Gonzales Taylor said that the Diocese has “been hoping for his arrest so that he may be brought to justice.”

After Brown was ordained in 1980, he served in several North Texas Catholic parishes over the decades including St. Thomas Aquinas in Dallas; Holy Family of Nazareth in Irving; St. Philip in Pleasant Grove in Dallas; St. Mark the Evangelist in Plano; and Our Lady of the Lake in Rockwall.

He wasn’t “removed” from the priesthood until 2002, and only recently was laicized, or defrocked.

Last January, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas released the names of 31 priests "credibly accused" of molesting children. Brown was on that list. 

On Wednesday, the FBI posted an online questionnaire seeking victims "who were persuaded or coerced into a sexual act by a member of the clergy in the North Texas region between 1985 and the present."

Credit: Courtesy photo
This photo of Richard Thomas Brown was taken in the mid-1980s while he was a priest in North Texas.

RELATED: Timeline: The investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Dallas sex abuse scandal

On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Diocese provided WFAA with a copy of a Sept. 19, 2019, letter sent to Dallas police Detective David Clark about Brown.

The letter was signed by Chancellor Gregory Caridi and Victims Assistance Coordinator Barbara Landregan.

“In recent interviews, you have informed witnesses that you believe the Diocese is responsible for Richard Brown’s whereabouts and has allowed him to roam the country,” the letter states. “This is not true. The Diocese does not control him and has notified you of the information we have received so that you can locate him and apprehend him in the proper manner.”

The letter states Diocese officials have kept police informed of what they know of Brown’s whereabouts, first when they learned that he was in a monastery in New Mexico, then in a VA facility in Albuquerque, and at the time of the letter, with relatives in Delaware.

“The Diocese stripped Richard Brown of his authority to act publicly as a priest many years ago,” the letter says.

Molestation allegations

Testimony in a civil lawsuit in the mid-1990s revealed that for years, church officials knew of allegations against Brown. 

However, Bishops Thomas Tschoepe and later Charles Grahmann let him remain a priest and frequently transferred him around North Texas and other states.

Last year, Dallas police executed a search warrant on the Dallas Diocese offices, searching for evidence about Brown and four other priests accused of molestation.

The affidavit in support of the Dallas police search warrant details allegations against Brown.

In 1980, according to the Dallas police affidavit, he molested a girl in Washington D.C. The affidavit said Brown befriended a family during the summer and convinced them to allow their minor children to stay with him in his apartment.

The victim said Brown inserted his finger inside her anus, the warrant says. The victim’s family did not notify the church until years later.

In the 1980s, Brown was assigned to Holy Family of Nazareth in Irving. According to the search affidavit, a victim there said that over several months in the 1980s, Brown came to her faith formation classes, took her back to his office, put his fingers inside her and made her touch his penis.

She said she notified the Diocese in 2004.

RELATED: Dallas Catholic church leaders concealed details of sexual abuse accusations, police say

But church officials knew about allegations against Brown shortly after it occurred, records show. In depositions in 1995 and 1996 in the now infamous case involving former Dallas priest Rudy Kos, Sister Caroleen Hensgen, who was superintendent of Dallas Catholic schools back then, testified about Brown.

She recalled that at the time, the Holy Family school principal alerted her to allegations against Brown.

“Keep him out of the school,” Hensgen recalled she told the principal.

From Irving, the church sent Brown to Pleasant Grove in Dallas, to St. Philip’s Catholic Church, Hensgen testified. There he tried to start a counseling group for middle school age boys, she testified.

She said she went to Bishop Tschoepe and other church officials. “I told them I didn’t like that he was bothering the kids at school, because I told them I knew what happened in Irving,” the nun testified. “They did not know I knew that, but I told them that I did.”

Credit: Jason Whitely, WFAA
Bishop Edward Burns of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas said church officials have been "cooperating" with a police investigation into sexual abuse allegations against priests.

RELATED: Bishop Burns says he's 'saddened' in response to Catholic Diocese of Dallas raid, warrant

Church transfers

Church officials continued to transfer Brown.

From 1989 to 1993, the police affidavit says, Brown served at St. Mark the Evangelist in Plano. Police said Brown molested a child there as well, the affidavit says.

In 1994, the family of the girl he allegedly molested in Washington D.C. alerted church officials. The church sent him to a therapist in the northeast.

“The Diocesan doctor who interviewed Brown believed him to be a pedophile,” a police affidavit says. “Brown admitted during his therapy session he would become sexually aroused when juvenile girls would sit on his lap.”

In 2002, the Diocese got a letter, according to a police affidavit.

It was from an Illinois family, who reported that Brown befriended them from 1996 to 2001. The family said they eventually let Brown stay with them and their four daughters, ages five to 14. 

He volunteered for “diaper duty,” and touched the oldest daughter’s breast. When the family confronted him, he told them about the allegations against him in the 80s and 90s.

“The family reported Brown admitted to them he sexually abused as many as 50 children,” the warrant states.

In 2018, the Dallas Diocese contacted Dallas police after an Irving victim’s aunt emailed them saying her niece was molested in the 80s.

Police talked to the victim, who told police they alerted the Diocese in 2004. Dallas police sought to verify that and requested Brown’s file from the Diocese. Church officials turned over hundreds of pages from Brown’s file, but police said that none mentioned the Irving molestation.

Later, the Diocese gave police an additional 51 pages, which included correspondence from the victim’s aunt.

The Diocese has said it has fully cooperated with the Dallas police investigation.

Several months after Dallas police searched the Diocese offices, Dallas County district judge Brandon Birmingham ordered the return of documents not related to the priests specifically named in a search warrant.

Email: investigates@wfaa.com