Catholic school official charged with child sex abuse

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Ray Township — Authorities have charged a Catholic school official with child sex abuse, officials said Wednesday.

Joseph Peter Sturza, 47, of Macomb Township was arrested on several charges Wednesday, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said in a statement.

Sturza has been charged with child sexual abuse activity, using a computer to communicate with another to commit a crime and accosting a child for immoral purposes. The sexual abuse activity charge is a 20-year felony. The computer charge carries a 15-year prison sentence.

He was formally arraigned in the 42nd District Court in Romeo. A judge set his bond at $50,000 and he is being held at the Macomb County Jail. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 9.

Wickersham said police started an investigation into Sturza on Nov. 19 after receiving copies of email intercepted by the parents of the child. The victim’s parents alerted the school, the Austin Catholic Academy in Ray Township, where Sturza is employed as admissions director.

The sheriff said the emails were sexually graphic and indicated child sexual abuse activity.

Wickersham said his office was also contacted by the Archdiocese of Detroit over concerns with Sturza.

He said the Archdiocese of Detroit has been cooperative in the investigation.

“As soon as the archdiocese became aware of the allegations, they immediately took steps to remove the man from his position and they secured evidence,” Wickersham said.

Police arrested Sturza at his home Wednesday morning and conducted a search of the premises.

“Generations of parents and students have placed their trust and safety in the hands of this rogue parish administrator,” Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said in a statement Wednesday. “These abhorrent allegations shock the conscience of all citizens, regardless of faith, and serve to remind us all to remain vigilant for our children, no matter the circumstances.”

Wickersham said the investigation is ongoing and anyone with information should call (586) 493-4861.

(313) 222-2058