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  Priest Ordered to Trial in Death

By Jim McKinnon
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 17, 2004

A judge yesterday ordered the Rev. Henry Krawczyk to stand trial on a manslaughter charge in the alcohol-related death of a University of Pittsburgh football player who fell more than 20 feet inside a church sanctuary.

Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo, in an 11-page opinion released yesterday, ordered Krawczyk, 51, held for court in the June 18 death of Billy Gaines, 19, of Ijamsville, Md.

Krawczyk, according to arguments by First Assistant District Attorney Edward J. Borkowski, set in motion the chain of events that led to Gaines' death.

Gaines and several of his Pitt teammates were living in the convent of St. Anne Church in Homestead, where Krawczyk was pastor, after a fire damaged their Oakland apartment.

On the night of June 17, Krawczyk hosted a cookout at which he provided alcohol. Gaines and at least a half-dozen of his teammates were present. At about 2:30 a.m. on June 18, Gaines and two others began exploring the church facilities. Gaines was in a crawl space above the sanctuary when he fell more than 20 feet to his death.

In September, Allegheny County Deputy Coroner Timothy G. Uhrich, presiding over a coroner's inquest into the death, ruled there was insufficient evidence to hold Krawczyk for trial on the manslaughter charge.

Borkowski refiled the charge before District Justice Thomas Torkowsky in Munhall, adding the new charge of reckless endangerment in connection with Gaines' underage drinking.

Defense attorney Robert Stewart then filed motions in Common Pleas Court seeking to have the case dismissed.

The two sides filed briefs and a new preliminary hearing was held before Gallo in early September.

"It appears to this court that based upon the dynamics of the evening of June 17, 2003, the fatal result was not such an unnatural or obscure consequence since [Krawczyk] started the chain of causation and encouraged the boys to drink," Gallo wrote in his opinion. "The fact that the church had been there for approximately a hundred years and nobody had fallen through the ceiling does not minimize [Krawczyk's] actions.

"In viewing the totality of the circumstances, a pattern of recklessness had developed commencing from the instant [Gaines] was poured his first drink," Gallo continued. "[Krawczyk's] conduct that evening revealed a conscious indifference to the risks that he was aware of or should have been aware."

Krawczyk remains free on bond pending trial.

The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said the diocese had no comment on the decision.

He confirmed that Krawczyk remains on administrative leave -- meaning he is forbidden to exercise public ministry.

"He is in residence at a diocesan facility, pending the charges against him," Lengwin said.

 
 

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