COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (The Gazette) - A former Colorado Springs priest and Air Force chaplain is among the hundreds of clergymen accused of child sex abuse in an explosive report this week from a Pennsylvania grand jury.
Our newspartners at The Gazette are reporting that among those implicated in assaults on children is retired Air Force Col. Stephen Edward Jeselnick, 67, of Colorado Springs.
Three adult brothers told grand jury investigators that Jeselnick was a parish priest in Meadeville, Pa., in the late 1970s when he repeatedly sexually assaulted them as children, both in their home and at church. No criminal charges are possible because the time in which they could be filed had run out before the allegations were made.
The complaints were lodged in 2017, the grand jury report said.
Jeselnick served at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Colorado Springs as an assistant pastor from 1983-1985, during which he was criticized for his “controlling” style, but wasn’t accused of sexual impropriety, church officials told The Gazette.
“The Diocese of Colorado Springs has never received a report or complaint that Jeselnick engaged in any type of sexual misconduct during the 28 months he served in the Colorado Springs parish," according to a news release from the diocese.
After joining the Air Force as a chaplain, Jeselnick returned to the Pikes Peak region in 2010, where he served in the chaplaincy at U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base until his retirement that year, military records show.
According to a Department of Defense contract list, Jeselnick was paid $16,275 as a part-time chaplain at the Air Force Academy in 2010-2011, although an academy spokesman said Friday he wasn’t able to confirm that.
The grand jury report does not mention allegations against Jeselnick outside Pennsylvania. However, news reports published in the Meadeville, Pa., Tribune in 2008 related the story of a man who said Jeselnick coerced him into having sex in 1980, causing decades of personal turmoil. The man, who was 20 at the time, went to Jeselnick for help during a family crisis, and never recovered from what he described as inappropriate conduct by his parish priest, he told the Meadeville paper.
The grand jury said Jeselnick faced similar allegations from another man “over the age of legal adulthood,” though further details weren’t disclosed.
The 2008 press reports raise questions about vetting by the military prior to Jeselnick's assignment to Northcom and the Air Force Academy. Air Force representatives did not immediately respond to whether they knew of the public reports about Jeselnick.
Repeated attempts to reach Jeselnick for comment Thursday and Friday were unsuccessful. He is part owner of a $980,000 home in a gated community at Kissing Camels Golf Course, El Paso County Assessor’s Office records show.
Check back at gazette.com for more on this developing story.
Gazette reporter Tom Roeder contributed to this story.