Monday, February 19, 2018
News Roundup

Pastor at West Tampa church commits suicide amid financial inquiry

TAMPA — The pastor of a West Tampa Catholic church hanged himself with a leather belt this week amid an investigation the diocese was conducting into parish finances, authorities said.

Around 8 a.m. Monday, a maintenance man found Father Vladimir Dziadek at the bottom of a staircase inside the administrative offices of St. Joseph Catholic Church, 3012 W Cherry St., according to a Tampa Police Department incident log.

A belt was found tied to the banister. No note was found, the incident log said.

According to a report by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office, a Tampa police officer said the Rev. Dziadek, 56, was depressed after parishioners discovered he had embezzled about $200,000 from the church and "gambled it away."

The report said the officer noted that Rev. Dziadek had been removed from administrative duties at the church and had a hearing with church members set for Monday.

Liquor bottles and casino vouchers were found in his room, the report said, without providing elaboration.

"Our detective is in the final stages of the investigation into his death," police spokeswoman Laura McElory said Friday.

Frank Murphy, a spokesman for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, said the diocese finance office was conducting an investigation involving the church. The investigation should be complete by Monday, he said.

Murphy said the investigation is into an issue Bishop Robert N. Lynch told the diocese "needed to be examined quickly."

Murphy said the Rev. Dziadek had a history of being treated for depression.

Born in Poland, he was a priest for 32 years, and part of the diocese for 12 years. He spoke Spanish, and spent some time at Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport before coming to St. Joseph in 2011.

"He was very well-received within the parish," Murphy said. "He was important and dear to the Hispanic community."

The Rev. Dziadek was preceded at St. Joseph by Pastor Felix Sanchez, who died in 2012 while on vacation. Church members represent nearly 20 nationalities, mostly Hispanic, Sanchez said in 2003.

Services for the Rev. Dziadek will be held at the church. Visitation will be held Sunday at 4 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. The funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Monday. The Rev. Dziadek will be buried in Barin, Poland.

Gonzalez Funeral Home of Tampa is handling the arrangements.

Times staff writer Dan Sullivan and news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected]

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