Dead Charleston Catholic priest accused of more child sex crimes

Clergy enter the Diocese of Charleston (WCIV)

Editor's note: Since this story was originally published, a new lawsuit has been filed claiming more child sex abuse allegations against deceased former Charleston-area Catholic priest, the Rev. Frederick Hopwood. Hopwood died in 2017. He was convicted in 1994 of committing a lewd act on a minor, entering a guilty plea in exchange for immunity from further criminal charges.

The Diocese of Charleston released the following statement regarding the new lawsuit: "The Diocese of Charleston received a lawsuit earlier today that claims a former priest in the Diocese, Frederick Hopwood, abused a boy in the mid-1950’s. Hopwood died in April 2017. Diocese attorneys are still reviewing the lawsuit and plan to respond to it within the next 30 days."

A forthcoming lawsuit will reveal damning allegations of child sex abuse against a former Charleston Catholic priest, a Mount Pleasant lawyer claims.

Attorney Lawrence Richter shared plans for the lawsuit with ABC News 4 on Wednesday.

“He is a well-known, vicious, pain inflicting perpetrator, and he did it over and over again,” Richter said, adding the lawsuit will be filed in the upcoming week.

Richter’s firm recently filed a lawsuit claiming the Catholic Diocese of Charleston covered up child sexual abuse by two teachers that occurred nearly 50 years ago at the former Sacred Heart Catholic School (now the Charleston Catholic School).

Meanwhile, sexual abuse complaints also have been made public in recent years against a dozen priests who served under the umbrella of the Charleston diocese in the past.

But that number may not reflect the true scope of the issue, as the diocese itself told the Post and Courier in 2014 it had received sex abuse complaints against 32 priests. However, the diocese refused to release all those priests’ names.

A Pennsylvania grand jury on Tuesday did release names of more than 300 priests accused of being child sex predators. On that list, a now dead priest who was reassigned to Charleston after being accused of sex crimes in Pennsylvania.

The diocese said Wednesday there has been no indication the late Rev. Robert Spangenberg ever molested children during his three years in Charleston at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church.

Richter hopes his recent lawsuit, his upcoming one, and Pennsylvania’s release of names will pressure the Charleston diocese to be more outspoken about the serious issues within the Catholic church.

“I hope that this is the case where the diocese will say, ‘Let’s just step forward and be honest about this matter,’” Richter said.

(ABC News 4's Anne Emerson and Drew Tripp contributed to this report)

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