April 12, 2006

Death of accused priest reported

St. Petersburg Times

By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published April 12, 2006

A Catholic priest from the Philippines who was accused of sexually abusing a girl while visiting a Gulfport church decades ago has reportedly died.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office learned last summer that the Rev. Polienato Bernabe may have died in the Philippines. Prosecutors had issued a warrant for Bernabe's arrest in 2002, but the priest could not be found.

The St. Petersburg Diocese confirmed this week that a diocese in the Philippines told them of Bernabe's death.

"We did get confirmation that he passed away," said Vicki Bedard, a diocese spokeswoman.

Prosecutor Jim Hellickson said the diocese provided his office with a copy of Bernabe's death certificate, which says he died in 2004. Still, prosecutors are trying to independently verify that Bernabe has died, Hellickson said.

Posted by kshaw at April 12, 2006 08:20 AM