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Alleged abuse victim dead in apparent suicide

ANCHORAGE -- A high school principal who accused a Catholic priest of molesting him as a young man has died in an apparent suicide, police and school officials said. The priest he accused had transferred from Alaska to the Boston Archdiocese.

Service High School principal Pat Podvin was found dead yesterday at his home, said police Lieutenant Gardner Cobb.

Cobb said police have no comment on the manner or time of death. "That would just add to the trauma of the friends and family," Cobb said.

The death was announced as an apparent suicide to students and staff at Service High School, said Superintendent Carol Comeau.

Podvin made headlines a year ago when he came forward to say he had been abused by a former Anchorage priest, Monsignor Francis Murphy, in 1982. He decided to step forward when the Boston Archdiocese released Murphy's personnel files.

Murphy, a Boston-area priest, returned to Massachusetts and resumed ministerial duties. After another allegation surfaced, he retired in 1995 and moved to Cuba, N.M., where he worked as a priest until officials learned about his past the following year.

He later worked in a nonchurch job as a counselor for high school dropouts, but resigned last year when school officials learned of the accusations.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage had contended in a newspaper article last year that there had been one isolated, unsubstantiated complaint by a teen from St. Patrick's Church. Podvin told KTUU-TV in February 2003 that he wanted to set the record straight, that Murphy had sexually assaulted more than one victim, and that Podvin's own reporting of the abuse to the church was ignored. Podvin said his family had been experiencing problems, and over six years he had grown close to Murphy and considered him like family. Podvin was 18 at the time. He said he was sexually assaulted after Murphy had been drinking.

Podvin said he reported being abused to the archbishop at the time, Francis Hurley, three days after the incident. Podvin said the church did nothing.

"That part has been the hardest part for me. That it happened is one thing. That it has been either forgotten or covered up or something else is inexcusable," Podvin said last year. "I mean, these people are supposed to be our ethical, moral leaders."

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