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'Priest guilty of touching girl, 11'

Last modified: 9/30/2010 12:00:00 AM
A priest who spent three years as a chaplain and teacher at Magdalen College in Warner admitted yesterday to sexually touching an 11-year-old girl in northern Virginia.

The Rev. Felix Owino, 44, entered a guilty plea in Fairfax Circuit Court to a felony charge of aggravated sexual battery.

Under a plea agreement, which must be approved by a judge, Owino will serve no more than five years in prison and could face deportation to his native Kenya, WTOV-TV reported. He will be sentenced in December.

Magdalen College, which employed Owino from June 2005 to October 2008, issued a statement saying the news was 'abhorrent and contradicts the teachings of Magdalen College and our Catholic faith. Our prayers are with the victim and her family.'

Vice President of Advancement and Admissions Tim Van Damm declined to say yesterday if there were any reports of misconduct by Owino when he was a college employee.

'It is generally not our policy to disclose the contents of our employee's files, whether current or former, we can relate that (Father) Owino's departure from Magdalen College in 2008 was not as the result of sexual misconduct with a minor,' the college's statement reads.

Until recently, Owino was an associate professor at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.Va., and associate pastor at a church in Weirton, W.Va.

He was staying with friends in the Herndon, Va., area in July when he touched the girl, the police said. Prosecutors yesterday said Owino had been drinking and touched the girl inappropriately July 7 while watching a movie, according to WTOV, a Steubenville, Ohio, television station that covered the hearing.

The girl told her mother, who called the police, the police said.

After his arrest, he was suspended from his priestly faculties by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, and Wheeling Jesuit University said he was not expected to return.

Elizabeth Tuomey, Owino's lawyer, couldn't be reached for comment. A man who answered the phone at her office yesterday refused to take a message for Tuomey and said she would not return any call seeking comment or information on the case.

Owino is originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus. He earned a master's degree and doctorate in philosophy from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, this summer wrote to parishioners of St. Bede Catholic Church, where Owino lived off and on, and asked them to come forward if they knew of any inappropriate behavior by the priest, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in early September.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)


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