Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

West Tampa church hopes to recover most of missing $165,000

TAMPA — St. Joseph Catholic Church, struggling to cope with the suicide of its pastor amid allegations he gambled away $165,000 in church finances, has a new leader and a chance of getting most of its money back.

The Rev. Carlos Rojas, from the Diocese of St. Petersburg's missionary in Wimauma, will replace Father Vladimir Dziadek, who hanged himself last week, said diocese spokesman Frank Murphy.

"It's tragic, but we're lucky to have Carlos' help," he said.

To recover from the financial landslide, the diocese plans to file an insurance claim and believes it can recover about 80 percent of the missing $165,000.

Around 8 a.m. May 12, a maintenance man found the Rev. Dziadek, 57, lying at the bottom of a staircase inside the church's administrative offices at 3012 W Cherry St. in West Tampa.

A Tampa police investigation into the death, released Tuesday, showed that the priest had used two belts tied together to hang himself from a bannister. Authorities reported they found four overdraft notices from a bank dating to December. No suicide note was located.

Diocese officials first suspected something was amiss with church finances when the Rev. Dziadek fell two months behind on his bill payments, Murphy said.

The Rev. Dziadek was removed from his administrative duties but allowed to continue delivering Mass, the police report shows.

He was to be replaced as parish priest later in the day of his suicide. Officials tried to get him to stay with another local priest from his native Poland, but he refused.

Friends who saw him last said the Rev. Dziadek seemed stressed and anxious, that his eyes looked "glassy" and "pale." One acquaintance was so worried she left her phone number and told the Rev. Dziadek to call if he needed anything.

He never did.

Investigators found that about $200,000 had been siphoned off over 18 months. Of that, only about $35,000 had been returned, Murphy said.

"The church itself is not a particularly wealthy parish," he said.

The Rev. Dziadek first arrived at St. Joseph Catholic about two years ago. He had suffered from depression before, but he was driven, Murphy said. "Once he decided to do something, he really went after it."

At the time, landscaping was sparse. The walls were bare. The Rev. Dziadek wanted to adorn the church — he had stained glass murals outfitted for the congregation.

"He understood that having a beautiful church was important to the community," Murphy said.

In the meantime, Murphy said, Bishop Robert Lynch is finishing an investigation that will be posted on the diocese's website this morning.

"We're going to try to provide a complete explanation with the numbers and have everybody understand what happened," Murphy said.

Zack Peterson can be reached at [email protected] or (813)-226-3446. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

West Tampa church hopes to recover most of missing $165,000 05/20/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 7:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.