ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- The parents of a girl who was repeatedly molested by a music minister at an Asheville church are suing the minister as well as his boss and the Diocese of Charlotte.
Church leaders knew 31-year-old Paul Berrell had a history of assaulting children in other states before he was sent to St. Eugene Catholic Church in 2007, according to the lawsuit obtained by the Asheville Citizen-Times.
Berrell was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison last month after pleading guilty to producing child pornography. Authorities said the girl whose parents filed the lawsuit was coerced into having sex with Berrell while he was giving her piano and voice lessons. She was 13 when he was arrested in May 2009.
The lawsuit also names former St. Eugene Catholic Church pastor the Rev. John Schneider. He is awaiting trial on a felony obstruction of justice charge after investigators said he went to Berrell's apartment after the music minister called him to say he was arrested and erased child pornography from Berrell's computer.
In its answer to the lawsuit, the diocese said Berrell and Schneider acted on their own and the church was not aware of any earlier abuse allegations against Berrell.
The parents are asking for unspecified damages, saying their daughter suffered a loss of faith in authority figures and permanent damage to her development. They say she needs psychiatric care for her severe mental anguish.
It's a very important case, said Brad Searson, the parents' attorney. We believe (the girl's) injuries are substantial, but we've got our fingers crossed that she's going to find a way forward. Our primary goal is to obtain a just recovery that will provide for her current and future needs.