Father Danilak Dies

By Anita Ferguson
Daily Times [Salisbury MD]
April 23, 2003

Snow Hill -- The Catholic priest scheduled to stand trial next month on charges of sexually abusing children in Ocean City more than two decades ago has died of HIV-related complications.

Father John Danilak, 67, of Limerick Township, Pa., was facing 21 counts of abuse-related activity, including unnatural and perverted sex acts, sodomy and child abuse, stemming from alleged attacks on three children in his Montego Bay mobile home between 1976 and 1978.

Danilak was indicted by two separate Worcester County grand juries last year. His trial was set for May 14, but he was found dead last Wednesday at his Pennsylvania home, officials said. According to a police report, Danilak was taking medications for HIV-related illnesses. He was buried at an undisclosed location on Saturday, officials said.

Though Worcester County prosecutors knew Danilak was ill, they opted to take him to court.

"When Danilak was indicted, we knew he might never live to see the inside of a courtroom or a jail cell," Worcester County Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Smith said Tuesday. "We thought it was important for the victims to prosecute this case anyway. Because of his death, the victims have been denied the opportunity to see him held accountable for his crimes."

Once prosecutors receive Danilak's death certificate, the charges against him will be abated, officials said.

Danilak was a priest at St. Gregory of Nyssa Byzantine Catholic Church in Beltsville, Md., when the alleged crimes occurred against a 15-year-old altar boy.

Police said the victim reported the incidents several times over the years, but church and law enforcement officials were not convinced the abuses occurred.

The victim contacted authorities again last year after learning Danilak had contact with children as a substitute priest at St. Michael's Parish in Montclair, Pa. Two more alleged victims then came forward.

The Eparchy of Passaic, the diocese in which Danilak was serving at the time, reported the alleged offenses to Worcester County prosecutors last year after receiving a letter from that victim's attorney. Danilak was stripped of his duties July 1, according to diocese officials.


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