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February 14, 2022 49 mins

Nearly four years after the murder of Sister Michelle Lewis, Mykhaylo Kofel’s fate is finally decided. And all of the investigations take their toll on Holy Cross Academy, but not before the priests find a new place to call home.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:06):
A few years ago, I say maybe five, six years ago,
seven years ago, I don't really remember. Now. My wife
and I were on our way to Asheville, North Carolina.
We were going up to see some friends and spend
some time there. Almost a decade after working on the
Holy Cross case, Private Detective Mike Zuvis was driving down
a rural country road on vacation. He wasn't working, but

he's a p I. He's observant, and those instincts kicked
in when he pulled up behind a big silver Lincoln
town car full of people, all dressed in black robes.
And what struck me immediately was how many people were
in it. It looked like it was a circus car.
There were heads, three or four heads in the back

seat and a couple of heads in the front seat,
and I go, holy moly. So I kind of pulled
up a little bit. I put the cop hat on,
and I pulled up to look, and I looked at
it was Father Abbott sitting in the passenger front seat
next to the window driving the car. Was petrol surprised
to see the monks he knew from Florida. Zubas drove closer,

he hit the horn and signaled for them to pull over.
When Father Abbott went saw Zuvis, he recognized the private
investigator immediately his eyes got this big. You know, he's
wonder what in the hell am I doing on a
North Carolina highway? You know. So they pulled over and
I got out, walked over to the car and say, hey,

what are you guys doing here? He said, let me
ask you what you're doing here? And I go, just joking, right,
So I'm following you, you know, And they acted a
little nervous about all of that. Did it strike you
weird that they got a little nervous when he said
I'm following you guys? Yeah, I mean you know, it
did absolutely. And so you know we've been each other farewell.

And that was that, and uh, I never saw him again.
A few years after that run in, Zubas says he
got curious about the monks from Holy Cross. He went
to his computer and typed in the site where he
found them not long after that last encounter, but everything
was gone. Their website no longer existed. Father's went and

Damien Petro Trenta and the other monks had all disappeared.
And now even the private investigator couldn't find them. I'm

Paula Burrows and I'm Melanie Bartley, and this is sacred scandal.
You can't have truth without accountability and transparency. Sunlight is
the best disinfectant. In the years after the murder at

Holy Cross, Mike remained adamant that he was sexually abused
by the priest who ran the school, and as the
investigation into those allegations continued, the attorneys prosecuting Mike for
the murder of Sister Michelle eventually came to believe that
he was being honest with his claims. The defense and

prosecution worked hard to find more evidence to corroborate Mike's allegations.
They traveled all the way to Ukraine looking for answers,
and the process of serving subpoenas and scheduling interviews with
the priests and mon asked the candidates took years to
organize in Miami's busy criminal justice system, but everything was

a dead end. Fathers went and Damien remained silent, and
none of the former monastic candidates ever said they were abused.
To the monastic candidates left. Assistant State Attorney Gail Levine
frustrated those boys as stiff as they were to us
and as robotic as they were to us, were the

same that they were to the sexual battery detectives. So again,
a brick wall. You keep hitting a brick wall. Nobody's
giving you any other information. We then tried uh different ways.
We brought in Department of Children and Family Services of
the State of Florida, they found nothing. We brought in immigration.

We we tried all different avenues and the only person
that ever admitted to being abused was Mikhaelo cop and
he had committed a murder and a violent one, so
he was not a defendant that could turn into a
very sympathetic victim. So no, the investigation was closed after

all of the avenues were explored. With the case closed,
it left Mike's defense team to speculate on why they
were unable to corroborate Mike's claims of sexual abuse. One
of those defense attorneys, Ray Tassif, has his own theory.
I don't believe that they sexually abused all of these

people by any means. I think they were very, very
um selective as to who would be involved in terms
of who they thought they could control the most, and
so they were very careful about that. That's my own sense,
but I think the others had some sense that something
was wrong or or something was going on, or were,

if now programmed, it was in their own interest to
sort of play along with this. Edith Georgie, the lead
attorney from Mike's defense, was left frustrated by other elements
of the sexual abuse in investigation. There was basic police
work that she says needed to happen as soon as
the allegations were made, but never did. I think one

of the biggest mysteries of this case that remains unsolved
is when Mikaylo made the allegations about father Abbott and
father Damien, the police had reason to search Damiens and
Abbot's residences, and they were never searched either. What would
have been found in their residences, One can only imagine.

Miami Dade Metro Dade Police Department has all the resources
in the world to do this kind of thing. They
didn't do it. The priests moved off campus soon after
Mike's confession, and as days turned into weeks and years,
the likelihood of finding any evidence in those rooms diminished. Now,

with the sexual assault investigation closed, the focus shifted back
to Mike's trial for the murder of sister Michelle. Though
the sex abuse case was inconclusive, Mike's defense team still
planned to use his allegations as part of an insanity
defense at trial. Edith Georgie says she gathered enough fragments
of evidence from the testimony of the monastic candidates, things

like the late night footsteps or hotel sleeping arrangements, that
could maybe convince a jury that Mike was telling the truth,
But she knew the insanity defense was still a risk
in the courtroom. And I think that testimony in particular
confirmed much of what we already suspected and new and

wanted to present as part of our defense. So our
defense was shaping up, shall we say. And I think
Ms Levine recognized that we also had huge problems because
there was clearly some preparation by Mikhailo, even though he
drank himself silly that night. Um alcohol is a defense

in the state of Florida. Insanity is, and he did
face the prospect of spending the rest of his life
in prison, that's life without parole, if he were found
guilty by a jury. Juries don't really like the insanity defense.
They often rejected. Maybe about one in fifty well accepted,

and that might be generous, so he ran the real
risk of never getting out of prison. On the other side,
prosecutor Gail Levin was worried about more than the testimony
of the monastic candidates. She knew that father went and
Father Damien's silence could also be damaging. If the priest

came to court, she knew they would plead the fifth
to every question, but if they weren't called to testify
at all, that could also have an impact on the jury.
Now would that have looked very suspicious? Of course, people
would have said, gee, maybe it's a second degree murder
because he was so enraged and he really did and
have the premeditated designs to thel and I hate those priests.
They didn't even show up. Blah blah blah blah blah

blah blah blah. She couldn't argue where are they, So
they would have said they were going to take the
fifth and you can't put somebody on that's going to
take the fifth and the jury can never hear that.
So the judge was going to exclude them, so she
could throw a lot of doubt about what's happening at
this church? What happening at the church, and make a
lot of his confession. But am I going to get

that first degree murder? Am I going to get that
death penalty? I knew that was waning. Gail was also
worried that the judge would make it difficult for her
to get a harsher sentence if this case went to trial,
and that also had to do with the priests. I
had a very liberal judge, and that judge was a Catholic,

and that judge had said things in front of Miss
georgian I that made me feel that he felt that
those kids were being sexually molested. He'd roll his eyes
during the depositions where they were taking the fifth. He
seemed very angry that they were taking the fifth. So
my concern was he wasn't going to give him the

twenty three or twenty two years. That was the bottom
that he could give him. And now I'm getting for
ninety two stab wounds, I'm getting maybe ten years, maybe
I'm getting probation. I wasn't willing to take that risk
with that judge. The fear was that he wasn't going
to be punished for what he did, and I don't
think that it was worth ten years. I think it

was worth much more than that. I think it was
worth thirty years, and that was the number I wanted.
Gail said that by this time she felt the death
penalty was no longer on the table because I think
he had mitigation. So in Florida, in order to get
the death penalty, aggravating circumstances must weigh mitigating factors. He

wasn't in a gang, the person wasn't over sixty five
or under twelve. He wasn't on probation or community control.
He did have the temporaneous crime, which was the burglary,
so we had to But did I think that in
the end I was going to get seven people that
thought he was the worst of the worst. There's fifteen
reasons for death penalty. Those two in his circumstance did

not weigh against the mitigation. In the build up to
the trial, both sides knew they were taking a risk,
so they came together to work out a plea deal
for Mike. There would be no trial and no possibility
of Mike spending the rest of his life in prison,
but there would also be no chance of him serving

a light sentence, So we did some negotiating the prosecution
and our team worked very hard with Mikhailo. That was
a very difficult decision for him to make, to accept
even a term of years. That he did because in

his heart and in his mind, he knew and we
knew that he really lost control because of everything that
had happened to him. But we had to weigh that
against the likelihood that he'd never get out of prison,
and that's a real hard thing. In the end, it

would be Mike's decision. He pled guilty to second degree
murder and burglary, and I accepted a thirty year prison sentence. Yes,
it was his choice, of course, when he had the
wig these alternatives. He gets out not guilty by reason
of insanity, he gets found guilty, spends life in prison,

or he works out something in the middle, and the
middle course is the safer course. It's probably what I
would recommend if he were my child, because I would
never want to see my child in prison for life.
You know, He's got so many positive features that we

knew he'd be okay as long as he could eventually
get out of prison, and he'd know that he had
a lot going for him, and no one wanted to
see him brought for the rest of his life in prison.
By the time of mike sentencing, it was February two

thousand and five, almost four years since the night that
he stabbed sister Michelle more than ninety times. But even now,
with the sexual abuse case closed and Mike about to
spend the next three decades in prison, things would not
just go back to normal at Holy Cross, because by
now the school was nothing more than a memory that's

coming up after a break. Welcome back to Sacred Scandal. Immediately,
the rumors surrounding the murder started flying. The details were
so dramatic. It was either twice with an axe or

a hundred times of the fire poker, you know, or
he had a pistol, or it was rape. I heard
a lot of different stories as to what he did.
You know, that he was caught stealing from the accounting office,
and that Sister Michelle had said that she was going
to report him. I remember hearing that he was trying
to get his documentations that he could leave, and that

sister Michelle stumbled upon him and they had an altercation
that somehow ended in her death. It seemed like everything
was going downhill. I guess there was enough scrutiny in
the media that I just went on hill. You know,
this is what life was like at Holy Cross after
the murder of Sister Michelle. It was a swirl of

rumors and stories about her, Mike and the priests, and
each new discovery in the case made it to look
TV or the newspaper, and that fed those stories more
and more. But the priest didn't really talk about the
murder or the allegations against them. There were a few
letters home to parents reassuring them that everything was fine,

but I don't even recall seeing them around as much
for the rest of that school year. One of the
times I do recall hearing from them, though, was in
the days right after the murder, at an assembly where
Father went asked us all to pray for sister Michelle
and Mike. One of my former teachers, Jennifer Vida, remembered

Father wentz words that day too, and then the next
kind of thing that he said before it was sort
of all said and done that like shook me to
my core, was when he said, you know, this is
very difficult news. This is definitely very hard to hear.
Hard to handle. This is hard for our community. If

you need to talk to someone, or you need, you know,
to deal with your grief or however he phrased it,
you can certainly seek counsel from myself or father Damien,
or you can go to your teachers. And like, my
heart stopped at that moment because I turned around to

my co teacher, who was teaching English part time, and
just looked at her and we she just also looked
like she had been like smacked in the face. And
we're both looking at each other, like what is happening here?
Like we haven't even been able to process this information ourselves.
Why because again, like none of this had been digested

I think by any of us. I remembered this moment also,
and it always felt weird to me that the only
counseling that they ever thought to bring in after to
the murder was people at the school and never anyone else.
So it was surprising for me to hear that one

of my teachers felt the same. I don't know. I
guess that I expected naively that that would not be
a position that we would be put in because we
are not trained at all to deal with that level
of grief, to provide any kind of therapeutic interventions, to
do counseling. I mean, these are there are people who

go to school for years for these types of things,
and we are not it. I am teaching you all
poetry and diagramming sentences, and yes, we're learning about the
humanities through art and we're exploring like life themes and
stuff in our classes. But that is incredibly different from like, yeah,

let's sit together and talk about like how it feels
like nothing makes sense in your entire world is crumbling
and you don't know how to deal with your emotions
right now. Neither do I. Interestingly enough, um, now, I guess,
on looking back, why do you think it was that

father went went that route with not offering outside counseling
and didn't want to bring in experts. Gosh, I have
no I have no idea. You know, the community was
pretty close knit, and it's one of those things where
like we deal with our own things, you know, we
keep it in the family, like we have a very
specific way that we do things, and we want things run,

you know. I speculated that perhaps they had some kind
of like an insurance company giving them direction as to
what statements to make, how to respond, what to do?
You know, grief counselors and those types of things cost
a lot of money. There may have been financial I mean,
it's like I really there could be numerous reasons why

they decided to go that route. I have no clue.
The year after the murder was a hard time for
Holy Cross Academy. Some people no longer wanted to be
associated with the school where the nun was killed, and
parents pulled their kids. My parents were some of them.
I graduated that spring after the murder, but over the

summer my parents decided that my little sister would not
be going back to Holy Cross. Teachers left too, and
the following school year, as the stories about the murder,
the sex abuse, and the eparchy investigation made the news,
more parents and teachers started to lose faith. At some point,

about a year after the murder, ms Vidas says she
was asked to sign a letter to parents showing her
loyalty to the school, but by then her mind was
made up. The priest's silence had gotten to her. I
was asked by someone in a position of authority if
I would consider signing a letter that was to be

sent to the parents, essentially saying that I was planning
on coming back next year and that I, you know,
believed in the education that Holy Cross offered and in
the student body and all of that, and that I
was committed to returning to the school the following year.

And it was an unequivocal no, And not because I
was trying to be difficult, not because I was even
upset at the way that everything had been handled. It
was because I had already made a decision and I
was not, under any circumstances going to stay upset at
how everything had been handled after the murder. Are you
only referring to the lack of counseling or were there

other ways that they dealt with the aftermath that you
didn't agree with or that stood out to you that
you were like, yeah, I mean it was just essentially, yes,
that was a big piece of it. The lack of
transparency around the issue with the community at large. And

you know, I understand enough about communications and just generally
moving through the world that like your staff or whatever,
it's like you're addressing the world because information is not contained,
So you totally understand that there are from a legal perspective,
and just from protections risk management perspective, a lot of
things that could not be shared. But there was zero transparency,

and I watched the students and quite frankly, the teachers
like battle with that. In the aftermath, as attendance twindled,
not every teacher had the choice to come back. Nan Gardner,

who was father once assistant headmaster, and the students told
us that the decision was not up to her. No,
it wasn't bound. They came and told me who couldn't
need me? The next year, I had a full year
after the murder, and I understood that the enrollment was
way down and just that was the end. I was

okay with it. Marietta Fernandez was deeply a part of
the school. Her kids went to hold a Cross since kindergarten.
She says that in the year after the murder, it
felt like things were starting to come and done. So
did things begin to feel like they had unraveled? I
think so. I feel that yes it did. But we

felt a great loss, a lot of disorientation, and as
the year progressed, it was very hard and very bad
because the parents were getting so involved and creating. I
believe so much rumor that was untrue. At some point

during this time, people at Holy Cross found out about
the eparchies investigation. So now there were rumors about whether
Father Went and Damien were really priests. Then Father Went
gave in unbroke his silence. Marietta said, he gathered parents
and showed them a book from Miami's Latin Catholic Diocese.

He told them the book proved he was an ordained
Catholic priest. She said that helped, but not for long.
It got a little bit tranquil for a short time,
but then you have something in the media that was
happening every day, you know, and people that want to
be that way and create that kind of havoc, and

it's in their nature to do that, they're going to
do it. But we were such a tight knit community,
We were such a family. You know, at this time,
the school had grown a lot more, The school was beautiful,
the high level of education remained there. But you know,
we had a lot of ins and outs. So yes,

it was felt, but I think we could have made
it through had we stuck together and remained as a family.
You know, that was very sad. A lot of people,
you know, separated at this point, A lot of friendships
were broken. It was ugly, it was bad, it was sad.

The castle on Sunset Drive was slowly starting to empty.
Holy Crossed lasted just three full school years after the
murder of Sister Michelle in the final one two thousand
three to two thousand four, and Rollman was down to
about half as many students and teachers. Even some of

the monastic candidates did not return on the final day
of school. All that remained was Father Went, his adopted
son of Petarenta, Father Damien, and two other monastic candidates,
Bastille Copage and Joseph Lembach, who came to Holy cost
the year of the murder for Father's Went and Damien.

The dream they built was gone, but they would start over.
The group would leave Miami and set up a new
monastery in the mountains of North Carolina. They bought a
house and some land in a rural area called Weaverville,
just outside Asheville. They funded their new project by selling
off the land where they built the school and the monastery.

Property that was purchased over decades for about eight hundred
and seventy five thousand dollars was sold for a total
of about nine point eight million dollars, and the Byzantine
eparchy who wanted to take that property back got nothing,
because even before the academy closed, the priests were beyond

even the Vatican's reach. More on that after the break

Welcome back to Sacred Scandal. I'm Paula Barrows and I'm
Melanie Bartley. Back around the time that Mike's Pleadio was
coming together and enrollment began to drop a holy across academy,
the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church started to
overtake headlines across the country. But in the mid two thousands,

there was a lesser known church scandal that kicked off
right around the same time, and it also brought decades
of church secrets to the surface. But this wasn't in
the Catholic Church. This scandal happened in the Orthodox Church
in America, which is more commonly known as the o
c A. In the context of the scandals in the

o c A, we called this the time of troubles.
This is Mark Stoko. He used to be a member
of the o c S governing body called the Metropolitan Council.
That council is made up of bishops priests and lay
people from the church. During the time of troubles, Mark
ran an independent accountability website called o c A news

dot org. He started the site at the beginning of
two thousand and six, when the initial O c A
scandals started to become public, and kept it active until
two thousand eleven. So for about five years we would
publish stories about the ongoing scandal and scandals in the
o c A to try and force the administration to

reform itself, and we were ultimately rather successful in that.
So the short story of the time of troubles starts,
like many scandals with money. Large sums were missing from
the o Cier's budget, and we're found to be going
to an unused bank account that only two people knew about.

One was the o SIS Metropolitan it's pope like spiritual leader.
The other was the church's chancellor, a leader on the
Metropolitan Council. And Mark told us that the main copra
here was that chancellor, a priest named Father Robert Kundratic.
So from through two thousand and five, the o CIER

paid approximately two million dollars of the Chancellor that's basically
the CEO, who's not a bishop who was a priest.
They paid two million dollars of his family's credit our
charges covering twenty personal credit cards and two corporate cards.
There was no documentation or receipts to support any of
these purchases were by the o c A. They included

personal travel and lodging to places like Aruba and Las Vegas,
tanning in hair, salon charges, jewelry store purchases, and ordinary
living expenses such as groceries, wine, newspaper, magazine subscriptions, cable bills,
clothes and shoes. Mike said the o c AS annual
budget at this time was around that same amount, two

million dollars a year, and he told us his money
came from a lot of sources, the chance that I
would have had a hand in, like fundraisers. For example,
in two thousand and four, three hundred and thirty three
people were killed in a terrorist attack on a school
in Russia. About half of the dead were children. The
O c A raised money to help the area in

the aftermath, and Mark says the Chancellor was tasked with
delivering the money that was donated, but not all of
it got there. We raised around a hundred and sixty
dollars from parishioners in a solicitation to help do this
Christian active charity, and he took eight thousand dollars of

that for his own use. Eventually, Chundratic was ousted and
the group was assembled to investigate how he was able
to hide what he was doing. That group issued a
report that claimed other people with influence at the o
c A Knew about the missing money, but had their

own scandalous reasons for not stopping him. One of those
named was the church's spiritual leader, Metropolitan Herman. I'll just
read you a quote from what it said. Several interviewees
claimed that a significant source of chundratics power over members
of the Holy Synod and other clergy was his knowledge

of their alleged personal moral failings, specifically with chemical addictions
and sexual improprieties. The report goes on to say at
least three sources informed the Special Investigative Committee that met
Bault and Hermann affirmed that Chundratic had blackmail herble material
of a sexual nature about each of them. Just an

old fashioned story. At this point, you're probably wondering why
we're talking about this completely different scandal in a totally
different church. Well, not long before the o c as
time of troubles began and all of this came to light,
Chancellor Chundratic was in Miami. He made a special trip

to inspect a school and monastery that were interested in
joining the O c A. Then, not long after that
trip October of two thousand three, during Holy Cross's final
year in operation, Metropolitan Herman arrived on campus to formally
accept Father's and and Damien and all the monastic candidates

as members of the Orthodox Church in America. Now that
they were no longer Bysantine Catholics, the priests, the school,
and the monastery were completely outside the reach of the
Eperchy or Vatican investigations. Right, So here's something you probably
don't know. In the nineteen eighties, the monks first approach

to join the o c A to start a monastery
in Miami, and that plan went askew because just as
they were about to announce all this, there was a
group of former Episcopalians who had become Orthodox that ran
a boy's school and farm in Piau in Mississippi that

was accused of sexual misconduct, and that school was closed.
Everything was hushed up, as it was in those days,
but it eliminated a possibility of starting the same sort
of thing in Miami. And then the next year the
monks start the monastery as a Byzantine Catholic monastery and

a few years later they start to school. So then
fast forward after the murder. A year after the murder,
the o CIER has its national convention in Miami in
July of two thousand and two, and that's where the
monks first show up on the o CIS radar again.

And they are all observers at this national convention of
the o c A. So they were obviously scoping things
out and meeting people at that meeting. And then eight
months later they wrote a letter saying that they wanted
to join the o c A. Father Condratic was sent

down to investigate them, and he said there's no reason
they can't be accepted in the o c A, and
so Metropolitan Herman accepted them and he went down himself
to receive them into the o c A. When Chindratic
and Metropolitan Herman accepted Holy Cross into the o c A,

the murder and sex abuse investigations were still ongoing, and
Mark says that Father Chindratic the Chancellor of the o
c A. Personally investigating Holy crosts is strange. He told us.
It's typically the local bishops that do these sources of inspections.
But the diocesan bishop at that time was the same

bishop back in the nineteen eighties who had originally been
willing to receive them, and so when they tried to
do it thirty years later, according to my sources, he
was not really happy with this idea at all, although
he said nothing publicly and didn't stop it, so they
saw no red flags after there had been a murder
in their monastery. Well, according to the quote unquote investigative

team that was Father Kendratic and the secretary of the
Metropolitan there was no reason not to accept them into
the o c A. When the Holy Cross became Orthodox.
We put information about the accusations on our website, and
almost immediately I think we got a letter from Father

once attorneys telling us that we needed to take it
down or they would see us in state court. Melanie
Dakota is a former lawyer and support coordinator for an
organization called SNAP Survivors Network of Those Abuse by Priests.
It's an organization started working with after witnessing abuse at

her own Orthodox church in California. When the Holy Cross
monks joined the o c A, she was part of
a website called popcrof dot org, a nonp off it
for survivors of church sex abuse and a network to
share information about priests accused of abuse. That's where she
posted information about Mike's allegations against the priests of Holy Cross.

It was probably one of our first letters, so we
were a little taken a bag. As I said, Um,
you know, it came in handy that I had gone
to law school, so I wasn't quite as worried about
it because I knew that they couldn't sue us in
state court, probably because we didn't have ties to Florida.
Melanie says there were a number of things that stood
out about Holy Crosses transition to the o c A

from the very start. The other thing that struck me
was that they literally changed everything. They changed their names,
they changed the name of their monastery, they changed their affiliation,
and then after Mr Crawford was convicted, they moved to
North Carolina. And it's suspicious now in the o c A.

The monastery became Protection of the Most Holy Theoto coast.
Father Abbot Gregory went was now our command right Gregory,
Father Damien became a human. Damien, Petro was Nicholas, the
monk fa Seal was called Seraphim, and Yosip was Mark.

But soon the bigger scandal in the CIA would begin
and the Monks of Holy Cross would go unnoticed in
the wake of those larger issues. In the meantime, the
group from Holy Cross would start building that new monastery
in North Carolina. They would work on creating a community
and sell religious books in the area. But at a

time of troubles continued to bring forward scandals in the
o c A. It wouldn't be long before it found
the monks from Holy Cross. Here is Marks Stoko. When
these monks were accepted into the o c A, you know,
it was kind of done under the radar. It didn't
make headlines. No one knew very much about it all

outside of the small area around Miami. It was only
four five years later, in the midst of the time
of troubles that so one of the scandals in the
o c A. In two two thousand and nine, the

Archbishop of Canada, Archbishop Seraphim, was accused of sexual misconduct
with a young boy actually two years earlier, and this
raised questions naturally, and an investigation was launched. And as

Archbishop Seraphim was a frequent visitor to the monks when
they lived in Weaverville, North Carolina, that is after they've
been accepted into the o c A, that brought those
monks on the radar because people said, why is he
always going down to North Carolina. And as a result,

there began to be calls for investigations into these monks,
like who are these guys? And it's like, wait a minute,
these are the guys There was a murderer at their
monastery and they were Busydian Catholics, and who are these guys?
Members of the o c S Metropolitan Council started to
look into the North Carolina monastery. They found out about

Sister Michelle's murder, Mike's allegations of sexual abuse, and even
the Byzantine bishop's case against them. Now the o c
A was on the alert, and once they were on
the radar, people started going there and they, you know,
were shocked that there was a triple wired electric fence

around the property, that there were security cameras everywhere. This
is not what you see in an Orthodox monastery, and
people wondered, you know, why is there a swimming pool,
Why is there a spa? People were saying, what's going on?
Who's in charge here? And as a result, the Metropolitan

Council decided that they would delegate three people, including a
member of the legal committee who was assistant federal attorney,
to go and investigate these guys and do it in
a serious basis. How did they get in the o
c A, what have they been doing? And parentheses, what's
our liability if any of this comes out, if all

this smoke shows that there's fire somewhere. And at that point,
Metropolitan Jonah, who had replaced Metropolitan Herman after he retired,
Metropolitan Jonah stopped the investigation. And I can't tell you why.

Mark told us that he saw signs that the monks
were rattled by the o C as investigation. As part
of the beginning of the investigation into them by the
Metropolitan Council. We have the property records, the transferred titles,
and it's a pretty clear pattern. Every time there were
questions raised, beginning in two thousand and four, so the

title of all these properties got transferred from one thing
to another thing. And you can see these title changes
happening if you look at the public records. The ownership
of the property in North Carolina moves between three companies.
It starts with Holy Cross Economy in two thousand four
when they first bought the land. Then a few months

later it moved to a newly formed company called St.
Nicholas Brotherhood. In two thousand and ten, when Archbishop Seraphim
was being investigated for sexual abuse, ownership of the monastery
moved again, this time to the Protection of Most Holy
Theoto Coast Monastery. A few months later it moved back

to St. Nicholas Brotherhood. These companies all are held by
some combination of Father went Father Damien, and Petro Trenta,
so it's impossible to figure out, you know, who owns it,
but it always goes back to Win and Uh. When
the o c began asking questions, the monastery was transferred

and that was I would assume because questions are raised,
well does the o c A own this monastery. The
o c A also wanted to know how Holy Cross
with the open sex abuse investigation, the Eprochy investigation, and

the fact that Mike's still hadn't been sentenced, had gotten
through any initial inspections to join the church. Melanie Sakota
said there were theories tying it all back to the
original ci A scandals, and one of the things that
was uncovered in that scandal was that a lot of
donations that were sent into the o c A we're

being siphoned off into an account or accounts that were
available to the Metropolitan and to his chancellor, and so
I think the speculation was that the monastery was accepted
because they paid toll to the troll. Now I don't

know if that was uncovered, but it was some speculation
because the Chancellor and the Metropolitan at the time came
down personally to oversee the acceptance into the o c A.
At that point, perhaps money could have changed hands, but

nothing was ever proved. A year after the investigation into
Archbishop Seraphim from Canada started, the priests did the same
thing they did only a few years before they switched churches,
though their release wasn't announced until the following February. The
group from Holy Cross officially left the o c A

in October two thousand eleven, almost exactly eight years after
they joined. Once they got investigated by the Byzantine Catholics,
they jumped ship to the o c A. And when
the O c A actually began to investigate them, they
jumped ship and join the church in the Ukraine. But

they didn't go back to Catholicism or even join another
church in the United States. The monastery in Weaverville was
now part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, not just Ukrainian
in name, but the actual church in Ukraine. Mark says
that this is not uncommon for Orthodox groups which troubled

pasts to do this as a way of covering their tracks.
It's called jurisdiction hopping. So there are thirty different Orthodox
jurisdictions in the United States, and oftentimes people that get
in trouble in one jump to another, and as there's
up until recently been little communication between them, they were

successful in doing that. It always struck Paula and I
how easy it was for the priests to move from
church to church to stay We're Catholic, now, we're Orthodox,
now we're something else. The thing is, the Bysantine Church,
the c A on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church all share
the same liturgy. The Orthodox churches just aren't under the

Pope in Rome. So though they are structurally different, their
beliefs and act this are a lot alike. But the
church they were a part of now was not new
for the monastic candidates. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church that they
joined back in two thousand and eleven has its leadership

in Moscow. It's essentially the church the remaining monastic candidates Petro,
Yoseph and Vasile were forced to join back before the
fall of the Soviet Union. When we talked to a
Seal's cousin, Elia Hertzok earlier this year about his own
experience as monastic candidate, we also asked him what he

thought of the group moving to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
What do you feel about them changing religions? It was
a little bit weird because it was the things that
we ran from before. We were allowed to go only
to Moscow church here and I was it was like

underground church, so and the forbidden church Catholic. It was
forbidden and for me it was swird. Why was Hell
staying there? And what's for sure, would if he had
the choice, he would go, I believe. But when he stayed,

when private investigator Mike Zubs got on his computer to
search for the monks from Holy Cross, the ones he
saw driving in that big silver car through the hills
of North Carolina. There was a reason why he couldn't
find them. The jump to the Ukrainian church would not
be the group's final move. Not long after that switch went, Damien,

Petro Vasile and Josiph packed up and started a new
monastery in the mountains of Ukraine. And that's where it
seems like the story ends. The solved case closed, Mike
in prison, the monks and priests in a different country,
outside the reach of any Byzantine, Orthodox or police investigations.

But for Melanie and me and so many of the
former teachers, parents and students we talked to Father when
and Father Damien, silence still hangs heavy over everything that
happened at Holy Cross. So next time on Sacred Scandal,
We're gonna go on a five thousand mile trip to
try and break that silence. Sacred Scandal is a production

of Exile Content Studio and partnership with I Heart Radios
Michael Duda Podcast Network. Sacred Scandal was created and produced
by Melanie Bartley and me Paula Barrows. Our senior producer
is Dennis Bunk of Written and Air. The executive producers
are Rose Red and Nando Villa. Production mixing and sound

design by Helena de grout. Our production assistant is Imani Leonard.
The show is fact checked by Kimberly Winston. Original music
and final audio mixing comes from Patrick Hart and special
thanks on this episode to George Drake Jr. Elissa Martine,

Corey Chikowski, Michael Haziza, and Travis Roych. If you'd like
to reach out, email us at hello at Sacred Scandal
podcast dot com, and you can follow us on Instagram
at Sacred Scandal
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