Marion Priest Dies in Traffic Accident

Associated Press
October 4, 2001

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - The Rev. Michael C. Fitzgerald, who was accused of inappropriate Internet activity while the pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Marion, has died in a traffic accident in Illinois.

Fitzgerald, 50, a member of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, died Tuesday at St.
Anthony's Hospital in Rockford, Ill. Officials believe his fell asleep while driving.

The archdiocese said Fitzgerald was training in the Chicago area to work as a hospital chaplain.

Accident investigators for the Stephenson County, Ill., sheriff's department said Fitzgerald was driving and Venkata S. Paturi, 26, of Darien, Ill., was a passenger.

Fitzgerald and Paturi had apparently driven to Dyersville to visit a friend and were traveling back to Darien, Ill.

Deputies believe Fitzgerald fell asleep while driving at around 6 p.m. on U.S. Highway 20 near Lena, Ill. Fitzgerald and Paturi were thrown from the vehicle.

The deputies said Fitzgerald had spent most of the previous night giving last rites in Chicago and Paturi said he appeared tired.

Paturi remained in intensive care at Freeport Memorial Hospital in Freeport, Ill., on Thursday.

Fitzgerald had served at the Marion parish for four years.

He was accused of participating in an inappropriate chat on the Internet with a person he thought was a 13-year-old boy. The person was an adult member of an Internet child advocacy group.

Fitzgerald was placed on leave last year and parishioners were told in September that he would not return.


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