Child sex abuse case heading back to court

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 9, 2015

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The case of a former employee at a local catholic high school is returning to the Macomb County Circuit Court.

Joseph Sturza, a former director of admissions at Austin Catholic High School in Ray Township, and a former youth minister at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Macomb Township, is 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.

The case was originally bound over to circuit court on July 8, but was remanded to the 42-1 District Court in Romeo later in the summer.

The case was bound back over during a hearing the week of Nov. 24. The next hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Dec. 14 before Judge Mary Chrzanowski for an arraignment.

The original preliminary exam began on May 13, several months after Sturza was arrested.

The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint from the Archdiocese of Detroit offices on Nov. 19, 2014, regarding an employee at Austin Catholic having allegedly inappropriate contact with a student through use of a computer.

The student was identified during the exam as a 15-year-old boy.

The Sheriff’s Office then set up an interview with the student’s parents on Nov. 20, 2014, when they were provided with a copy of emails taken from the student’s email account. The parents also provided the Sheriff’s Office with the student’s school-issued iPad, cellphone, and adult items that were allegedly provided to the student by Sturza.

After the interview, the Sheriff’s Office was also provided access to Sturza’s office at Austin Catholic. They took a Dell computer tower for evidence and were provided with Sturza’s school-issued iPad and cellphone the following day. Investigators also took a computer from Sturza’s office at St. Isidore.

A search warrant for Sturza’s residence was executed on Nov. 26, 2014, when he was also arrested. Officers took a laptop computer and thumb drives from his home.

After Sturza and his defense team conditionally waived his right to continue the preliminary exam on July 8, the case was bound over to circuit court under the notion that there may be a resolution in the case. The case was remanded at the circuit court level on July 20, and the preliminary exam resumed at the district court level on Sept. 2.

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