Victim in Philly Priest Sex Abuse Case Dies Unexpectedly

By Kelly Bayliss, Dan Stamm and David Chang
|  Friday, Oct 18, 2013  |  Updated 8:39 AM CDT
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Priest Arrested for Abusing Altar Boy in Northeast Philly: DA

Philadelphia District Attorney

Rev. Robert Brennan is accused of sexually molesting a boy.

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The victim in the sexual assault case against a Philadelphia Catholic priest died this week, according to District Attorney Seth Williams.

"It is with great sadness that I have to announce that the victim in the rape and assault case against Father Robert Brennan passed away unexpectedly," Williams announced in a press release Thursday.

The victim, who was allegedly raped by Robert Brennan while serving as an altar boy from 1998 to 2001, was found dead by Philadelphia Police Detectives over the weekend. The man's attorney, Marcie Hamilton, says the 26-year-old's death was drug-related.

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"We have lost a wonderful man who overcame great odds and made it through college, battling his demons all the way -- demons that came into his life as he sought escape from the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Brennan while he was an altar boy," Hamilton said.

Brennan, now 75, was arrested on Sept. 25 in Perryville, Md. and was returned to Philadelphia on Sept. 26 after waiving extradition. He is charged with rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and aggravated sexual assault. Previous allegations of abuse by Brennan, detailed in a grand jury report, did not result in charges because the alleged assaults fell outside the state's statute of limitations.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams described in graphic detail how Brennan, who was 60 when the alleged attacks started, began sexually assaulting the boy when he was in the sixth grade.

The alleged assaults happened inside the church as well as off church grounds while Brennan was an assistant pastor at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in the Rhawnhurst section of Northeast Philadelphia.

"The assaults took place in the sacristy of the church, in Rev. Brennan's bedroom, in the rectory, in a storage area on parish property and in a movie theater," said Williams. 

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Priest Accuser Dies

NBC10's Harry Hairston speaks with the attorney for Father Robert Brennan. A 26 year-old accused him of sexual assault. The accuser died today. The case against Brennan is in limbo.

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A judge significantly lowers bail for a former Philadelphia priest accused of molesting a boy.
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"The victim reported Brennan’s abuse to the archdiocese in January of 2013 and the archdiocese then immediately -- and by that immediately I mean the same day -- contacted the district attorney’s office," he said.

Brennan was arraigned in early September for the sexual assault. A judge set Brennan's bail at 10 percent of $1 million. Brennan also was ordered to not have contact with his accuser.

In October, the priest's bail was reduced to 10 percent of $50,000.

"We are disappointed and worried by the bail reduction for Fr. Robert L. Brennan," wrote Barbara Dorris, a spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests(SNAP). "Kids are safest when predators are jailed. And despite Fr. Brennan’s long ties to Philadelphia, we fear he may flee overseas if given a chance, knowing that he likely faces a long sentence if convicted."

Given the unexpected death of the victim, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Officer is now reviewing the case and should have a decision on whether or not prosecution will continue.

“This is obviously going to make it harder for the District Attorney to win a conviction – which is the only thing that will guarantee protection for other kids who Brennan might prey upon," Jeff Anderson, the victim's co-counsel, told NBC10. "But we feel confident that our client’s courage is going to inspire other victims to step forward and give prosecutors even more evidence to put Brennan away for good.” 

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