November 25, 2005

Charges shed light on church: Eastside `cult' is likely hiding members accused of sex abuse, police say

King County Journal

by Noel S. Brady
Journal Reporter

The shadowy history of an Eastside church, recognized by many as a cult, has come into focus with new charges of child molestation and an admission by one former member that he molested an 8-year-old boy.

Steven A. Belzak told King County prosecutors that he began sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy at a home in Sammamish for male members of the Tridentine Latin Rite Church. In his confession, he said the abuse went on for three years, beginning in 2000.

Another church member, 20-year-old Justin Kirkland, is charged with first-degree child rape and first-degree child molestation. And last week prosecutors charged a third man, Michael W. Muratore, 21, with first-degree child molestation.

Kirkland and Muratore remain at large, and investigators believe the so-called cult that reared them is protecting them from prosecution.

``It's most likely that the cult is shielding or hiding them,'' said King County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart. ``This breakaway group is not recognized by the (Roman Catholic) church. They're a cult.''

Posted by kshaw at November 25, 2005 07:03 AM