Suicides Follow Allegations

[Cleveland] Plain Dealer
May 25, 2002

American priests who have killed themselves after allegations of sexual abuse of children were raised against them:

Aug. 1, 1986: The Rev. Jonathan W. Franklin, 61, shot himself on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey in Louisiana, where he had served as a monk for about 11 years. Franklin was to stand trial in two weeks for lewd acts involving a 12-year-old altar boy he met through a Pensacola, Fla., church.

March 20, 1992: The Rev. Richard Chung, who taught religion at a Colorado Springs high school, parked his car in a garage and inhaled exhaust fumes. The day before, school officials told Chung they were investigating whether he had abused a boy. Police later found "probable cause of inappropriate touching."

Aug. 11, 1992: Monsignor William Reinecke, 53, chancellor of the Diocese of Arlington, Va., killed himself with a shotgun in Berryville, Va. Two days earlier, a man had confronted Reinecke after Mass and accused him of molesting him 25 years earlier. Another man later came forward and said he also had been molested by Reinecke.

Aug. 1993: The Rev. Thomas Smith, a parish priest in Bradshaw, Md., shot himself in the head with a shotgun two days after being confronted with allegations that he improperly touched a boy during the 1980s. Smith, 68, denied that allegation, but had earlier confessed to molesting several boys at another church during the 1960s.

April 14, 1993: The Rev. Charles Rourke, a jazz-playing pianist who founded a mariachi band for young people, killed himself in Tucson, Ariz., while being investigated for molesting children in Albuquerque, N.M. How Rourke, 67, took his life was not included in a news report at the time. Rourke's associates said the priest had become despondent after being laid off from a job at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.

June 4, 1994: The Rev. John Hesch shot himself in the head several hours after Richmond, Va., diocesan officials confronted him with a decade-old allegation of child sexual abuse - specifically, that Hesch had abused a man who had killed himself three months earlier. Hesch, 37, left suicide notes declaring his innocence. But two former parochial school teachers said they warned church officials of Hesch's inappropriate contact with young boys nearly 10 years earlier.

July 1993: The retired Rev. Carl C. Schaffer, who ran a home for troubled teenage boys in Kentucky, killed himself with carbon monoxide the day after a detective questioned him about a decades-old allegation of abuse. When Schaffer, 66, retired in 1989, he opened the Padre House in his southeastern Kentucky home

November 1994: Philip Wolfe, a defrocked Santa Barbara priest who had pleaded no contest to molesting a boy five years before, hanged himself in his Albuquerque, N.M., apartment a month after completing probation. Wolfe, 40, left no note. His 1989 conviction led to an investigation revealing decades of sex abuse by several priests at St. Anthony's Seminary in California.

Nov. 11, 1995: The Rev. John K. Rogers, a noted religious scholar, killed himself in a forest near Louveigne, Belgium. Rogers, a former campus minister at Humboldt State University in California, had been ordered back to the United States to face accusations of molesting a 15-year-old boy.

December 1996: The Rev. Ted Llanos - accused of molesting more than 20 boys, sometimes violently, while working in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif. - wrapped a plastic bag around his head at a Washington, D.C., home. Prosecutors at that time were considering filing charges against Llanos and a civil suit was pending.

April 4, 2002: The Rev. Don A. Rooney, facing a decades-old allegation of abuse against a Wadsworth school girl, parked his car at a Hinckley Township drugstore and shot himself in the head. Rooney left a brief goodbye note to family members, who believe he was innocent.

May 16 , 2002: The Rev. Alfred Bietighofer of Connecticut hanged himself in his dormitory room at St. Luke Institute, a religious psychiatric hospital in suburban Washington that treats Roman Catholic clergy accused of sexual abuse. Bietighofer, 64, resigned from his Bridgeport, Conn., parish three weeks before and went to St. Luke for evaluation after two men accused him of abusing them in the 1970s and early '80s.

Elsewhere: At least four Catholic priests in the United Kingdom also killed themselves in 1999 and 2000 after being accused of sexually abusing children. Three were being investigated by police. A fourth was about to stand trial on 66 charges involving the abuse of boys.


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