Priest charged with possession of child pornography

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Clay County, Missouri Prosecutor's office charged Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan with three felony counts of possessing child pornography Thursday.

Ratigan was arrested on Wednesday at the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist on Nolan Road in Independence, Missouri.

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According to the probable cause statement , the Kansas City Missouri Police Department was notified May 13, 2011 that on Dec. 16, 2010 that a priest at a local church had been having issues with a computer.  IT personnel located several graphic images of females under the age of 12.  The computer repair person returned the computer to the church and apprised them of the contents located. 

The statement also indicated that on Dec. 17, 2010 Ratigan failed to show up for 8:30 mass.  Church officials and EMS located an unconscious Ratigan in his garage with the door closed and motorcycle running.  It adds that a suicide note was found at the residence stating he was sorry to the church, the kids and his family. 

He was admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care.

The statement said that the church diocese made a copy of the images that were located on the laptop computer and then released the laptop to Ratigan's family who then destroyed the computer.

The disk was turned over to detectives on May 13, 2011.

The document stated that "many of the images were taken in and around the churches and schools Ratigan has been associated with."  A St. Joseph, Missouri church that Ratigan previously worked at also provided police with a desktop computer on May 16 which was found to have several images similar to those found on the laptop.

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Additional digital media is in police and is being reviewed for more evidence.

Several of the females have been identified and are being interviewed. Ratigan is being held at the Clay County Jail.

The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph released the following statement Thursday regarding Ratigan:

"The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph is profoundly saddened to learn that Father Shawn Ratigan has been charged with the possession of child pornography. Charges came about after the diocese discovered troubling images on his personal computer and sought the advice of local law enforcement professionals.

First and foremost, the diocese is concerned for the safety and welfare of the unidentified children and their families. We acknowledge that that the use of pornography is a very painful and corrosive influence in our culture, and we pray for the recovery of any child who has been exploited in this manner.

Since January 2011, Father Ratigan has lived at a private priests' residence in Independence, Missouri, and has had no parish assignment.

As a community of faith, we are called to protect the life and dignity of all people, especially children who are vulnerable. Preventing and reporting the suspicion of abuse is a required response to what we are called to do as followers of Jesus."

NBC Action News will update this story with more information as it becomes available.

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