Sex crime charges against priest dropped, church investigation resumes

Edgar Sepulveda (Source: Brunswick Co. Sheriff's Office)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Nearly three years after a priest was accused of sexual battery with a minor, prosecutors have dismissed the charges.

Brunswick County has finished its investigation into Fr. Edgar Sepulveda, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook.

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Investigators in Brunswick County charged Sepulveda in early 2010 with second degree sexual offense and sexual battery with a 17-year-old boy. The charges stemmed from an incident in 2009 when the priest from Duplin County was ministering for a youth group in Shallotte, where a member’s family gave him a place to say.

Brunswick County District Attorney Jon David said the charges were dismissed last week. The prosecutor handling Sepulveda’s case in Brunswick County has not returned our call for more information.

With the criminal investigation over, the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh has resumed its own inquiry.

“That is going to be conducted by a private investigator, who will conduct the investigation, and then report to the diocese and the review board his findings,” diocese spokesman Frank Morock said.

The diocese had paused its investigation when the DA’s office took over.

Church leaders say Sepulvada will remain on administrative leave until the internal investigation is done.

There have been similar incidents within the Catholic Church over the years and criticism of how the church has handled many of them. With this situation, the diocese says it is following established procedures to protect children.

“He could be returned to ministry, or if the review board finds something wrong, then that would be whatever recommendation is for the bishop,” Morock said.

At the time of his arrest, Duplin County also had an open investigation into Sepulveda. We reached out to District Attorney Ernie Lee’s office. No word yet on the status of that investigation.