Pastor takes his life in wake of TV probe

The longtime pastor of a Presbyterian church in Ben Avon who was the subject of a KDKA-TV investigation into what the station called “reports of public and illegal sexual behavior” committed suicide yesterday.

The body of the Rev. Brent Dugan, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, was found in a motel room in Mercer County, according to the Mercer County coroner’s office.

His death came a day after KDKA canceled plans to air its report, citing concerns that Mr. Dugan was “considering doing harm to himself.”

Mr. Dugan’s attorney, Ralph Karsh, confirmed his death last night but declined to say how or where the death occurred.

Mr. Dugan’s body was found around noon yesterday in a room of the Mercer Motel in Mercer, said Dr. David Hoyt, an examiner for the Mercer County coroner’s office.

Mr. Dugan died of an overdose of alcohol and aspirin and ruled that his death was a suicide.

KDKA this week had aired promotions for its scheduled broadcast, but the promotions did not identify Mr. Dugan, referring only to a “local minister.”

On Thursday, during the 11 p.m. newscast, anchor Ken Rice said “KDKA management made the unprecedented decision not to air the story.”

Reporter Marty Griffin then told viewers the station decided not to air the story because “we have reason to believe the pastor may be in danger to himself.”

Mr. Griffin said he had been working on the piece for a month and had “uncovered illicit, possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities which at the very least violated the rules of his denomination.”

During that broadcast, Mr. Karsh, without identifying his client by name, said that the pastor was stepping down from his job and would seek “treatment and counseling to deal with any issues he might have.”

In a statement last night, KDKA said it had “conducted a month-long investigation into reports of public and illegal sexual behavior by Pastor Dugan. The results of that investigation were scheduled to air [Thursday] evening … That evening the station received information from someone close to Pastor Dugan that indicated that he was considering doing harm to himself. As a result, the station made the decision not to air the story.”

KDKA, in its statement, expressed condolences to Mr. Dugan’s family and friends.

Members of the congregation yesterday declined to comment. A man who answered the phone at the church said the congregation was going through a grieving process.

“We are having a very hard day,” he said.

The Rev. James Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, also declined to comment. He said he would possibly release a statement today.

Community Presbyterian church was formed in 1987 Ben Avon’s two Presbyterian churches, Ben Avon Presbyterian Church on Church Avenue and Woodland United Presbyterian Church on Dickson Avenue, joined together due to declining membership.

Mr. Dugan had been pastor of the church since 1988.

TV editor Rob Owen contributed to this report.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, USA
Nov. 4, 2006
Moustafa Ayed

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 6, 2006 at 1:23 PM, Central European Time (CET)