KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Local attorney, Rebecca Randles, hosted a news conference Monday afternoon at her office to announce launch a statewide grand jury-style investigation into clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
Randles touts that she is Missouri's most experienced attorney representing victims of sexual abuse.
According to Randles, 228 Catholic priests across Missouri and the Archdiocese of Kansas in Kansas City have been accused of molesting kids.
Randles said last week’s grand jury report regarding sex abuse at Catholic Churches in Pennsylvania prompted Monday’s call to action.
“So it details that there is an even greater issue in the Kansas City, St. Louis, Missouri and the Archdiocese of Kansas than what we’re seeing out of the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania,” Randles said.
Four survivors of sexual assault joined Randles during the announcement and shared how they're lives have been changed since they were assaulted.
"I was in third grade when it started," Tom Viviano said. "Then it stopped in eighth grade when I moved away."
Viviano, 62, said he still lives with the pain. He added that he'd like to see an open investigation take place. See his emotional plea for change in the video player below.
Jack Smith, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, released the following statement, in response to Monday’s news conference:
"We cooperate fully with law enforcement and are eager to do so in order to prevent and eliminate dangers to children and vulnerable adults. When Bishop Johnston arrived in Kansas City, he very quickly made visits to metro law enforcement officials. Our independent Ombudsman immediately reports accusations of abuse to law enforcement even before she investigates them. If ever law enforcement requires information from us we fully cooperate in the interest of the safety of the people in our community. If Ms. Randles, or any other person, is aware of a situation of abuse, no matter how long ago, we want to know about it, because we want to make sure that perpetrator is out of ministry and that victim is given help in healing."
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office also put out a statement on Monday, following the new developments:
"The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has placed a high priority on protecting children from all kinds of abuse. This includes children who witness violence knowing its harmful effects and long-term consequences. Through our grand jury, we investigated specific allegations against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 2011, resulting in an indictment of a church official for failure to protect children by failing to report abuse.
"Following the prosecution, the Diocese instituted an ombudsman who regularly communicates with this office regarding potential allegations of abuse.
"We welcome this partnership, but rest assured we won’t stand idle when children are victimized. We have reviewed and investigated other allegations of abuse by church officials since 2011. Those cases, however, proved to be beyond our reach for criminal charges because the statute of limitations had passed. Our ethical obligations prevent us from speaking in more detail about who those persons were or the exact nature of the allegations.
"Finally, we wish to highlight the current church administration in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It has been very active in bringing to our attention such allegations. We appreciate their diligent efforts and look forward to a continued partnership."