DALLAS — A 78-year-old former Catholic priest whose whereabouts remain unknown has been accused of aggravated sexual assault of a child while serving as a priest in North Texas, according to a police affidavit.

Dallas police obtained a warrant Tuesday for the arrest of Richard Thomas Brown, a priest who served at five North Texas churches before he was removed in 2002 and recently defrocked. The affidavit accused Brown of sexually molesting a child on July 5, 1989.

Brown is the first Catholic priest to be charged with sexual abuse since Dallas police raided the offices of the diocese last year. One year ago, the diocese issued a list of 31 priests its officials said were “credibly accused” of molesting children. Brown was on that list.

The present case against Brown began in 2018, when an Irving abuse victim’s aunt emailed the diocese to report that her niece had been molested during the 1980s. The police, contacted by the diocese, interviewed the victim who said the diocese had been alerted in 2004.

The affidavit, which was obtained by WFAA-TV, said the victim told of Brown sexually assaulting her over several months in the 1980s at Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving.

Brown’s activities were reported long before 2004, though. In depositions taken in 1995 and 1996 in a civil case, Sister Caroleen Hensgen, then the superintendent of the parochial schools in the diocese, testified that the principal of the school at the Holy Family school in Irving told her of those activities during the 1980s. She said she passed those reports on to then-Bishop Thomas Tschoepe. Brown was transferred to another parish.

According to the police affidavit, Brown continued to be transferred from one parish to another, one diocese to another. Police believe he sexually abused as many as 50 children between his ordination in 1980 and his removal from the priesthood in 2002.

In a letter dated last Sept 19, the diocese said Brown’s last known whereabouts was in or near Delaware. “It is our prayer that the arrest of Richard Brown will provide an opportunity for the legal system to address the accusations against him,” the letter stated.

No telephone number could be found listed in that area for Brown, and he could not be reached for comment.

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