An Episcopal priest who was arraigned earlier this month in a Somerville courtroom on charges that he repeatedly sexually assaulted a child who was a former parishioner has died, his lawyer and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts said on Wednesday night.
“With sorrow I received news this evening that the Rev. Paul LaCharite has died, an apparent suicide,’’ Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese said in a statement. “This is a shocking tragedy, and I’ve asked our diocesan community to pray for everyone concerned.’’
LaCharite, 65, had pleaded not guilty on Sept. 10 to charges that he sexually assaulted the former parishioner, who is now 26, over a ten-year period at the St. James Episcopal Church in Somerville, where the priest had been assigned from 1989 to 2005.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy,’’ said David Meier, a lawyer for LaCharite, who was found dead on Wednesday night in Boston. “Father Paul LaCharite was truly an innocent man who was driven to the depths of despair by a false accusation.’’
LaCharite lived in Boston and had been free on bail.
Cheryl Fiandaca, a Boston police spokeswoman, said late Wednesday in an email that she could only confirm a death investigation was underway at 157 New Sudbury St. She said police wait for the medical examiner to identify the deceased and determine a cause of death.
A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., whose office brought the case against LaCharite, did not immediately return messages seeking comment late Wednesday night.
Prosecutors alleged that the first assault occurred when the former parishioner was a boy, 7 or 8 years old, and continued until 2005.