Suspended Priest Found Dead from Gunshot Wound

By Matthew Stone
Kennebec Journal
June 28, 2008

A priest suspected of sexually abusing a girl in 1979 was found dead Friday morning in the Dover-Foxcroft rectory where he lived.

Police confirmed the Rev. James P. Robichaud, 56, an Augusta native, committed suicide.

Robichaud most recently served at St. Agnes Parish of Pittsfield and Our Lady of the Snows Parish of Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft and Milo.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland had temporarily suspended Robichaud on Thursday pending an investigation into an allegation he sexually abused a girl 29 years ago, in 1979.

Robichaud, who was born and raised in Augusta, became an ordained priest in April 1979 and the same year was assigned to St. Jean-Baptiste Parish in Lowell, Mass. He served at that parish until 1983.

"This is a tragic end to a story that we may never completely understand," Bishop Richard Malone said in a statement released Friday by the diocese. "It is simply our mission to bring the healing presence of Jesus to this agonizing situation."

The same statement noted there is not yet sufficient information to dismiss or substantiate the abuse charge.

"May His love work through each of us to find compassion for the woman who made the complaint, Fr. Robichaud's soul, his family, friends and parish community," Malone's statement said.

The diocese said it would release further details about the abuse complaint at a later time.

Robichaud attended the Oblate College and Seminary in Natick, Mass., from 1970 to 1971. He later earned a bachelor's in English from Framingham State College in Framingham, Mass., in 1974. He studied at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., and earned a master's in divinity in 1978.

The announcement of Robichaud's suicide came as a surprise to those who knew him.

"That doesn't seem possible," said Patricia Connery, a Palmyra resident who sits on the St. Agnes Parish Council. "He was a wonderful person."

"He was well-liked and he was a good chaplain," said Denise Roy, a nurse at Lowell General Hospital in Lowell, Mass., where Robichaud served as chaplain from 1983 to 1993.

Roy recalled Robichaud was studying to be an emergency medical technician and said the priest had worked with Lowell firefighters.

Harvey Paul, Maine director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the suicide "tragic."

"We grieve for everyone involved in this sad situation," he said in a statement.

During his nearly 30 years as a priest, Robichaud also served as pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes church in Lowell, Mass., from 1994 to 1999. In 2000, he returned to Maine to become the administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Dover-Foxcroft and St. Francis Parish in Brownville Junction.

In 2005, he added Dexter's St. Anne Parish to his responsibilities.

The three parishes merged in 2007, becoming Our Lady of the Snows Parish. That same year, he also became the St. Agnes Parish administrator.

Robichaud died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Sgt. Gary West of the Dover-Foxcroft police.

He said an employee at the rectory found the body in a second-floor bathroom, and it was believed that the shooting took place Thursday evening. No suicide note was found, West said.


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