Coroner: Priest Died of Heart Attack
Vacationing Miami Cleric Was Accused of Molesting Boys

By Madeline Baro Diaz
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
December 28, 2002

An autopsy of the Rev. Jose Nickse, a Miami priest who died while on a vacation to the Bahamas, indicates that he died of a heart attack, the Nassau coroner said Friday.

Coroner William Campbell said the autopsy showed Nickse had an enlarged heart and congestion in his arteries. There was no sign of trauma on the body to suggest foul play or suicide, Campbell said. Although Campbell won't make an official ruling until toxicology tests are completed, Friday's autopsy cleared the way for Nickse's body to be flown back to Miami this weekend.

Nickse, 55, was found dead in his hotel room on Dec. 24. Nickse, who was accused by two former altar boys and a former parishioner of molesting them, had been suspended while the archdiocese investigated.

Nickse traveled to the Bahamas for a Christmas vacation with fellow priest and friend Rev. Ricardo Castellanos, of Pompano Beach's San Isidro Catholic Church, who had also been suspended from his duties while the archdiocese investigated molestation accusations against him.

Castellanos, who checked out of his Nassau hotel Thursday and could not be reached for comment Friday, has denied the allegations.

Nickse also denied the allegations made against him and many of Nickse's parishioners at St. Brendan Catholic Church in Miami believed in his innocence. According to the archdiocese, parishioners hand-delivered about 4,000 letters of support after he was placed on administrative leave.

"There was no doubt he was well loved by his parishioners," said archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.

A viewing for Nickse will be held Monday from noon to midnight at St. Brendan. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, a Mass of the Resurrection will be held, followed by burial at Our Lady of Mercy Cemetery in northwest Miami-Dade.

The lawsuits against Nickse and the Archdiocese of Miami over the alleged sexual abuse will continue despite Nickse's death, said Jeffrey Herman, who represents two of the men who accused Nickse of molesting them in the early 1980s. The lawsuits are in the process of being amended and refiled, Herman said.

Herman said his clients won't have the chance to face Nickse in court, but the suits will continue against the archdiocese and possibly Nickse's estate.

"While it's sad this man died, it doesn't take away from the pain he caused my clients," Herman said.


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