After 20 years, woman alleges sexual abuse by Catholic school teacher

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published November 7, 2012

LATHRUP VILLAGE — Resident Marlene Veres, a student at the former St. Bede school in Southfield, has come forward to say that her former Catholic school teacher and basketball coach sexually abused her while she was 12-14 years old.

John P. Kiley, current principal at Holy Redeemer Catholic Elementary School in southwest Detroit, is the man she claims molested her. He was Veres’ fourth-grade teacher and fifth-grade basketball coach at the now-closed school.

Veres, 35, has filed a civil law suit in the Oakland County Circuit Court against Kiley and the Archdiocese of Detroit. According to Joe Kohn, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, Kiley has been put on paid administrative leave while the matter is investigated.

“We were not aware of these allegations prior to Wednesday,” Kohn said last week. “While they are only allegations at this point, they are of a serious nature, and we are looking into them.”

Veres said that Kiley abused her from sixth grade until eighth grade, and it began by him befriending her divorced mother, who also worked at the school as a custodian. He would volunteer to drive Veres home after practice if her mother worked late, she said, or just stop by for visits.

“He gained my mom’s trust,” Veres said. “He would sometimes come to the house when my mom wasn’t home, too. I remember the first time, sitting in what we called the ‘white room’ at that time. I had two beauty marks on my neck, and he said those were my trademark and that he was going to plant a kiss on them.”

Veres said she remembered pulling back and “looking at him funny” when he kissed her neck, though the physical contact and romance became a routine occurrence after that. She said the abuse often occurred in the locker room after basketball practice, where he would ask her to perform oral sex and kiss her. The abuse happened several times each week during those two years, she said.

Fred Livingston, Veres’ Detroit-based attorney, said she decided to come forward now after seeing how internalizing the situation has impacted her life.

“She just recently came out and started telling people what happened. She went through a divorce and traced a lot of issues back to the abuse she went through,” Livingston said. “She didn’t know that under the age of 16, she couldn’t consent to having sex … She felt like she did this voluntarily because he romanced her, told her he loved her, gave her notes and told her he was thinking about her.”

The main reason for taking action now, however, is credited to her two daughters, according to Livingston.

“Their parents are now divorced and their dad isn’t around,” he said about her two teenage daughters. “She doesn’t want them viewing older men as someone who can give them love because they don’t have a dad in their life as much as they should.”

By opening up about the case now, Livingston said they also hope any other possible victims will step forth.

He explained that the alleged abuse happened when Michigan law had a statute of limitations on child sexual abuse, and Livingston said unless someone comes forward about being victimized since 2001, Kiley won’t be criminally prosecuted.

For now, a civil law suit has been filed, seeking damages in excess of $25,000, the minimum amount required for circuit court, Livingston said.

“We’re just hoping that if this happened to anyone else, they come forward so he’ll get the justice he deserves,” he added.

In 1991, the family became suspicious of Kiley and Veres’ relationship, and her father went to school officials to complain, Livingston said. Veres denied everything in order to avoid getting him in trouble, she said.

Reportedly after that incident, Kiley was assigned to a different school and Veres’ mother was fired.

Kiley has worked at six local parishes, according to the Archdiose: St. Mary in Mt. Clemens in 1981-1985; St. Bede, 1986-1991; St. Juliana in Detroit, 1992-2003; East Catholic Elementary in Detroit, 2004-2008; and Gesu in Detroit in 2009-2011. He has been at Holy Redeemer since 2011. Bede, Juliana and ECE are closed now.

Though no other victims have stepped forth in connection with Kiley, Veres said she believes there are others out there and the only thing she can do now is tell people that there’s help available.

“Now, at age 35, I feel bad that I waited so long, that I didn’t understand for so long,” she said. “When something like this happens, I don’t think that it just stops … I’m not naïve enough to think that I’ve been the only one through all these years now.”

Veres said she wants her healing to begin and to eventually help other victims of sexual abuse.

As of press time, there are no charges pending against Kiley.