Cardinal Newman grad, former MLB pitcher John Wetteland charged with child sex abuse
Texas law enforcement officials have arrested former Cardinal Newman High School star baseball player John Wetteland on suspicion of child molestation, stemming from allegations involving a family member 14 years ago.
Wetteland, 52, grew up in Sebastopol and graduated in 1984 from the Santa Rosa Catholic school before going on to a 12-year pitching career in the major leagues. He was a ?three-time league all-star and the 1996 World Series Most Valuable Player with the New York Yankees before becoming a coach through 2010.
He was arrested Monday in Texas on suspicion of continual sexual abuse of a child who is a relative. Wetteland, who has not lived in Sonoma County in decades, now lives in the Dallas-area suburb of Trophy Club.
The news hit the Cardinal Newman campus Tuesday, shocking those who knew him and forcing administrators to re-evaluate Wetteland’s public legacy at the school.
“It is so unexpected. So many things with John over the years have been positive with us,” said the school’s dean of student life, Graham Rutherford. “When he visited, it was about three years since we last saw him, you got a great sense that he cared about kids and cared about what he was doing.”
When Wetteland returned to the high school several years ago after signing a lucrative contract with the Texas Rangers, he donated $100,000, Rutherford said. The money was used to build a weight room and the school has a plaque outside the room with the inscription “Wetteland Weight Room Equipment.”
That plaque likely will be removed, Rutherford said.
Cardinal Newman administrators also will have to decide whether to leave professional baseball jerseys with his name on them and a photo of him in the school’s trophy case.
“Unfortunately, it means that we’re going to have to get more information to evaluate his legacy with us,” Rutherford said. “And we’re certainly concerned about him, but more concerned about the possible victim.”
Rutherford said if the school decides to distance itself from Wetteland’s history, a public announcement would be forthcoming from administrators.
“It takes time to unravel, but I don’t think given the seriousness of it, we can just wait and see,” he said. “We do not want to be offering him as an example to others if he has not done as he should do. ... Just as we’d recognize somebody’s achievements for good things they do, we will not let that achievement stand if they do something that’s extremely bad.”
Bartonville, Texas, Police Chief Bobby Dowell said in a prepared statement issued Tuesday that the case was referred to his agency by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services on Jan. 9. Five days later, Wetteland was arrested by the Denton County Sheriff’s Office.
Wetteland was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child under 14, a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of 25 to 99 years in prison. He was released Monday on $25,000 bail, Denton County jail records show.
Bartonville police and the Denton County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment further on the case Tuesday, and the Denton County District Attorney’s office did not return requests for comment.
Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said she could not comment on the specifics of the case due to confidentiality rules. She said when a case is referred to the department, the child welfare agency forwards it to law enforcement, who make the determination whether to charge an individual with a crime. The agency also does an investigation of its own.
“Any time we receive a report to the hotline where the allegations sort of meet the statutory definition of abuse or neglect in the law, we’re required to investigate,” Gonzales said.
According to a consolidated complaint and probable cause affidavit, Wetteland is accused of forcing a child relative to perform a sex act on him, beginning in 2004 when the child was 4. The accuser said it happened twice more during a two-year period, the Associated Press reported.
Attempts by the Press Democrat to reach Wetteland Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Those who knew Wetteland as a Cardinal Newman student-athlete were coming to terms with the news.
“It doesn’t seem to match the person we’ve known,” said Rutherford, who graduated in 1977 but taught when Wetteland was a student in the early 1980s. “Yet, he’s far away and it’s a different time and place and people’s lives change.
“You’d like to have some sense of proof before you believe something is true, but it certainly didn’t read well. It seems some in-depth research has already been done.”
In addition to his World Series MVP with the New York Yankees, Wetteland was inducted into the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame.
Wetteland, a three-time All-Star, had 330 saves over a career that also included stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Montreal Expos. He also had a 48-45 career pitching record with a 2.93 ERA.
His coaching stint and personal life was not without turmoil prior to this week’s arrest.
During the 2006 season, Wetteland briefly served as bullpen coach for the Washington Nationals but was fired by manager Frank Robinson in June of that year because of a long line of transgressions and insubordination that was affecting team chemistry, the Washington Post reported.
Denton County jail records show that in 2015, he bailed out of jail for operating a vehicle with the wrong license plate for its class and for jumping bail and failure to appear. No further information was available online from that case.
Wetteland taught Bible classes to 11th-grade boys at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas, in the late 2000s and he was the school’s assistant baseball coach. He has no current connection to the school, the Dallas Morning News reported.