Trial starts for ex-Catholic priest, ex-EWTN host accused of abusing his son

Trial starts for ex-Catholic priest, ex-EWTN host accused of abusing his son

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David Stone, 55, formerly known as Father Frances Mary Stone, was host of the TV program “Life on the Rock” on Eternal Word Television Network. He fathered a child born in 2008. The mother was fired from EWTN and Stone was put on long-term leave of absence, according to Jefferson County court documents.

By Greg Garrison on May 24, 2016 @ www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2016/05/trial_starts_for_catholic_prie.html

A trial began Monday for David Lawrence Stone, a Catholic priest and former EWTN TV host who was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexual abuse of a minor under 12.

“I’m innocent,” Stone told AL.com after jury selection began for his trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court. “I’m going to fight this thing all the way.”

The minor he is charged with sexually abusing is his own son, now seven years old. Stone has been embroiled in a custody battle. “I’m going for my son,” he said.

Stone, 55, formerly known as Father Frances Mary Stone, was host of the TV program “Life on the Rock” on Eternal Word Television Network.

In court filings, Stone’s attorneys have argued that the allegation of child abuse is false. Stone has been in a lengthy custody battle with Christina Presnell, the mother of his child, according to Jefferson County Court records.

Scott Morro, an attorney for Presnell, said the relationship between Stone and Presnell started when she was working for EWTN. Presnell worked as a human resource coordinator for EWTN, according to court documents. She met Stone in 1998, went to confession with him as her priest and considered him her spiritual adviser, then began a sexual relationship with him in 2001. They kept the relationship secret, but were discovered when she became pregnant. EWTN fired Presnell in 2008 and Stone was put on a long-term leave of absence, court records show.

Stone no longer is a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, the order of priests founded in 1987 by Mother Angelica, who also founded EWTN. Stone no longer lives at the Annunciation Friary in Irondale.

The Catholic Diocese of Birmingham investigated the case and it’s now being played out in the judicial system, in both criminal and civil cases in Jefferson County.
“We have investigated, and done everything we’re required to do,” said Catholic Bishop Robert J. Baker. “He is out of the ministry. Everything is pending the outcome of the trials. My understanding is he is saying he is falsely accused. Any of these situations are difficult.”

Presnell, 48, was widowed in 1999 after a 13-year marriage and had two daughters and a son with her husband. She also had another son by another father while separated from her husband, then had Stone’s son, who was born in 2008, according to court documents.

According to court documents, Stone had visitation with his son starting in 2010. In May 2011, Presnell said that the boy told her that his father put his finger in the boy’s anus, causing him to defecate on the bed. Stone denies that story and says she made it up. She filed a police report. Stone was arrested by Irondale Police on Oct. 9, 2013 and released on $150,000 bond.

Stone does not currently have visitation privileges with his son as a condition of the bond, court records show. He has been fighting for visitation privileges and custody in civil court in Jefferson County.

“This is just an attempt to get money from the church,” Stone said Monday as he left court.

Stone’s attorneys asked for a delay in the trial because a key witness for the defense, the lead investigator for the Department of Human Resources, gave birth by C-section recently and is unable to attend the trial. Judge Clyde Jones declined the request for a delay on Monday, saying there’s no guarantee other witnesses would be available at a future date. Jury selection continues today.

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5 comments on “Trial starts for ex-Catholic priest, ex-EWTN host accused of abusing his son

  1. A tragedy for many reasons.

    I am aware of a very solid priest falsely accused of criminal behavior (while still very active in his parish and – surprise! surprise! – a long-time advocate of the Latin Rite of St Pius V) who was instantly removed from his posts and exiled.

    In his case both the police officers who took the female complainant’s testimony told a professional forensics expert that the woman was a liar and contradicted herself even in her deposition. The local DA would not even bring charges and went public with his reasons for disbelieving the allegations, full stop. But the priest is still exiled and was never given even two minutes to bid farewell to his friends (who were many) or staff.

    Stone’s case is entirely different but the common strumpet he fell for has little to recommend to a serious jury by way of credibility. In fact, she has zip, zilch, nada.

    Stone appears to be a well-intentioned, very poorly formed priest (he’s actually a bright man with solid academics behind him, before he “decided” on ordination.)

    His abandoning his vows is hardly uncommon. But tragic nonetheless.

  2. I always liked Fr. Francis ! Had dinner with him when my wife was more active in helping EWTN years ago. Nice guy ! It is sad. Many priests I knew left an got married. Some worked out better than others. That is life. All I can say is God Bless and good luck.

  3. Former EWTN Priest Found Not Guilty Of Abuse

    June 1, 2016 by SD
    From AL.com:

    A Jefferson County jury today found a former EWTN priest and TV personality not guilty of child sexual abuse.

    David Stone, 55, hosted a talk show for youth from 2001-2007 on EWTN. While working at EWTN he fathered a child with an EWTN employee, Christina Presnell. The child was born in 2008.

    [For full story]

  4. Thank you, Tom, for posting this news. It’s important.

    The laicized priest may be a confused soul who’s known nothing but the Nervous Ordeal and all its pomps and works for his entire life and even weakened by temptation but I am very sure he is a believing Catholic and would never have done what he was hideously accused of.

    Whether it was his “ex” or her divorce lawyer that concocted the calumnies, it had to be an unbelievable shock to him to even hear such monstrous claims being publicly charged against him.

  5. The problem is, once anyone, priest or not, starts walking away from the fullness of truth revealed by God, in this case, by coming to a point where he felt required to abandon his holy orders, then he leaves himself open to becoming involved with exactly the wrong type of people. This former priest started having sex while still a priest, while not married to the woman and in fact, while being her confessor. That is really, really bad. Major sinning. So what does he expect now the whole thing had blown up in his face?

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