SNOW HILL – A former Catholic priest, charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse and assault on a minor in Ocean City dating back three decades, was sentenced this week to six months in jail and was forced to register as a sex offender.
Michael Lowell Barnes, now 65, of Haywood County, N.C., appeared in Worcester County Circuit Court on Tuesday for a sentencing hearing after entering an Alford plea to one count of child abuse-custodian in June. Barnes was extradited to Worcester County last spring to face 16 charges related to a pattern of sexual abuse on a minor carried out in Ocean City over a six-year period from 1977 to 1983.
The Ocean City Police Department last year received a complaint about the sexual abuse of a minor. The alleged incidents were to have taken place in Ocean City between 1977 and 1983 and involved a former priest, later identified as Barnes.
Police began investigating the alleged pattern of sexual abuse on the minor dating back over 30 years and obtained an arrest warrant for Barnes. Last October, local detectives, in cooperation with the Maggie Valley, N.C. Police Department, located and arrested Barnes in North Carolina.
Barnes was extradited to Worcester County in February and committed to the Worcester County Jail. He was formally indicted on 16 charges including three counts of second-degree sex abuse of a minor, five counts of third-degree child sex abuse, four counts of second-degree assault and four counts of child abuse by a custodian.
The alleged incidents in Ocean City dating back 30 years were only the tip of the iceberg. In June 2009, Barnes’ alleged victim in the abuse pattern filed a civil suit in the Superior Court of Delaware against the former priest and the Archdiocese of Baltimore alleging a long pattern of abuse that began in 1977 when the victim was just 12 years old and continued for several years.
The civil suit filed in Delaware in June spells out a pattern of abuse carried out in Baltimore and in Maryland and Delaware resort towns. The suit also named the Archdiocese of Baltimore as a defendant.
The alleged victim’s attorney, Michael Reck of Manley and Stewart, said this week the civil action involving Barnes and the Archdiocese has been resolved.
“We are thankful to the law enforcement personnel who worked to secure Father Barnes’ conviction and are hopeful that his status as a registering sex offender will protect other children and will offer some comfort and hope to other victims of sexual abuse,” he said.