Fargo Diocese offers more details of lead-up to priest attack; Alexandria man in custody
The Catholic Diocese of Fargo issued a statement Friday, Feb. 9, providing more details of its involvement in the events preceding the attack of a priest in Anamoose, N.D.
Chad Legare of Alexandria is a accused of strangling Rev. Robert Wapenski of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church at Wapenski's home in Anamoose, a town of 250 people about 100 miles northeast of Bismarck on Jan. 30. Wapenski is not named in the criminal complaint against Legare, but the diocese has confirmed Wapenski is the victim.
Legare, was arrested Monday, Feb. 5, in Alexandria and is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and burglary, all felonies. At his first court appearance in North Dakota's McHenry County District Court Thursday, Legare called Wapenski a rapist.
In its statement Friday, the diocese said Legare brought an accusation of inappropriate behavior to the attention of the diocese in an online report in December and in person in January, but Legare didn't identify the victim or priest.
"The Diocese encouraged Mr. Legare to have the alleged victim report the incident or to make a report himself," the statement read. "A few days later Mr. Legare revealed for the first time that these allegations involved Father Robert Wapenski and the alleged victim."
The statement continued: "At that time, the Diocese again encouraged Mr. Legare to report the allegations and further encouraged him to have the alleged victim contact the Diocese. Later that same day, Mr. Legare informed the Diocese that he had contacted police."
Asked why the Diocese didn't file a report with police when made aware of the alleged misconduct, Diocese spokesman Paul Braun said Legare was told to contact police. Braun said the situation involved adults with firsthand knowledge of the alleged crime who should report it.
Braun said the Diocese complied with all mandatory reporting laws.
In its statement, the Diocese said it "made several attempts to contact the alleged victim," but she didn't respond.
The statement said Legare told the Diocese Jan.16 that he "made a mistake with all this." The Diocese also said the unnamed victim on Jan. 22 "denied all allegations against Fr. Wapenski to the Diocese."
A woman has told the Echo Press that she is the connection between Legare, whom she was dating, and Wapenski. The Echo Press is not naming the woman.
The diocese has said Wapenski is recovering. Attempts to reach Wapenski have been unsuccessful.
Legare remains in custody in a Rugby, N.D., jail.