Priest Found Dead in New Hampshire, Days after Being Accused of Molesting Child

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press
December 31, 2002

Concord, NH - Authorities are investigating the death of a Roman Catholic priest from New Hampshire who was accused of molesting a child just days before a hiker found his body off a wooded trail.

Officials with the Diocese of Manchester called the death of the Rev. Richard Lower an apparent suicide, but police in Enfield, where the body was found, said no cause had been determined.

Capt. Richard Crate said investigators do not suspect foul play, but said the cause of death was not obvious and may have been natural causes. He would not say whether Lower, 57, had left a note.

Crate said it could be weeks or months before tests by the state medical examiner provide any answers about Lower.

A written statement by the diocese did not say why church officials suspected suicide, except to say the circumstances "indicate he may have taken his own life."

According to the church's statement, the diocese was contacted Wednesday by a man who accused Lower of sexual abuse in 1973 while the priest served at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Littleton.

The Rev. Edward Arsenault, the diocese's delegate on sexual misconduct cases, said Lower was notified that day in Manchester, and returned alone to New London.

The next day, church officials determined the allegation appeared credible and that Lower should be placed on administrative leave until the matter was completely investigated, Arsenault said.

But Arsenault said Lower could not be reached. His body was found Sunday.

Church officials said it was the first report to the diocese of sexual misconduct with a minor against Lower.

Patrick McGee, spokesman for the diocese, said Lower had been accused of misconduct with an adult man in 1989. McGee said Lower denied the allegation, but participated in a psychological evaluation. The evaluation cleared Lower for unrestricted work in ministry, McGee said.

Bishop John B. McCormack said Lower also was dealing with several medical problems, including chronic back and arthritic pain, and just last month his mother died.

"Despite our sorrow and hurt, we must be confident that God will resolve this conflict and heal this wound both for Father Lower and for us," McCormack wrote in a letter to New London parishioners.

Lower's family also released a statement. They said they were proud of Lower's work as a priest and called him their "strength though life's difficult struggles."

"On behalf of Father Dick and ourselves, if anyone was ever harmed by him, we ask that you forgive him and seek out someone to assist you in your own pain," the family wrote.


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