Another delay in case of alleged sexual abuser

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 4, 2015

MACOMB TOWNSHIP/RAY TOWNSHIP — The former employee of a local Catholic high school who was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a student saw his court date postponed for a second time last week.

On Jan. 27, a pretrial hearing for Joseph Sturza, 47, of Macomb Township, was adjourned by Romeo 42nd District Court Judge Denis LeDuc. According to the court administrator, Sandy Kegler, the case was again postponed for discovery purposes, giving Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor William Harding and defense attorney Thomas Stotz more time to gather evidence and prepare arguments.

LeDuc made a similar decision at Sturza’s original hearing date back in December. This time, he scheduled a probable cause hearing for Thursday, March 12, at 9 a.m.

According to Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, in November, the Archdiocese of Detroit contacted his office over concerns with Sturza, one of its employees. Sturza had been serving as director of admissions at Austin Catholic Academy in Ray Township — located on 26 Mile Road east of North Avenue, just north of the Macomb Township border — and as a youth minister at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Macomb Township.

The Sheriff’s Office began its investigation after the parents of an Austin Catholic Academy student intercepted emails allegedly containing sexually explicit content between Sturza and the student, Wickersham said.

To protect the privacy of the student and the student’s family, the sheriff did not release the student’s age or gender.

Wickersham stated that once the child’s parents found the sexually graphic emails, they immediately alerted the school, which then contacted the archdiocese. After further investigation, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Sturza.

Sheriff’s detectives took Sturza into custody on the morning of Nov. 26 after searching his home. Although they did not find any sexually explicit materials, they seized several personal items as evidence, including three computers, Wickersham said.

At his arraignment, Sturza was charged with four felony counts: child sexual abuse activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes, and two counts of using a computer to communicate with a minor in order to commit a crime. He was also bound to a tether and ordered to have no computer activity and no contact with the victim, the victim’s family or his former employers. If convicted, he could face more than 40 years in prison.

Wickersham indicated that the archdiocese was fully cooperative with his office’s investigation and removed Sturza from employment at Austin Catholic Academy and St. Isidore immediately after becoming aware of the allegations against him.