Beaver County DA investigates predecessor named in church sex abuse report
Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier has opened an investigation into a man who served as the county’s district attorney in the 1960s and was named in a grand jury report released Tuesday that detailed decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
Robert Masters, 87, was fired from his job as solicitor for Beaver County Children and Youth Services on Wednesday, a day after the scathing report accused him of stopping an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by local priests for political reasons while he was district attorney.
“We have to do something,” Lozier said. “We have to ask questions.”
Lozier said his detective bureau will investigate Masters’s actions but noted that the allegations “arise from events which took place over 50 years ago, so there is little possibility of prosecution.”
Masters’s name came up in the grand jury report in relation to Earnest Paone, who began his career at St. Titus in Aliquippa in 1957. Between 1960 and 1966, he moved from St. Titus to Epiphany in Uptown Pittsburgh, Mother of Sorrows in McKees Rocks, St Monica and St. Theresa in Beaver County and Madonna of Jerusalem in Sharpsburg.
Lozier said he regrets Master’s actions, which effectively halted the investigation into one of the more than 90 Diocese of Pittsburgh priests named in the grand jury report.
Masters sent a letter dated Aug. 4, 1964, to Pittsburgh Bishop Vincent Leonard regarding a sexual abuse investigation regarding Paone, according to the report.
In a copy of the letter included in the grand jury report, Masters wrote, “I have, in order to prevent unfavorable publicity, halted all investigations into similar incidents with other young boys.”
Lozier said criminal prosecution of any Beaver County priests named in the report will also likely be barred by the statute of limitations.
Masters testified in front of the grand jury in September 2017. Asked why he would defer to the bishop on a criminal matter, the report said he answered, “Probably respect for the bishop. I really have no proper answer.”
The report said Masters also “admitted he was desirous of support from the diocese for his political career.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.