SAN ANTONIO – The death of Father Virgilio Elizondo on Monday afternoon has been ruled a suicide by the Bexar County medical examiner.
The 80-year-old former rector at San Fernando Cathedral died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
San Antonio police arrived at his home near Woodlawn Lake after a report of shot being fired. The Medical Examiner's Office reports Elizondo was declared dead five minutes later.
“It must have been a very sad life he was leading at this point, under a cloud,” his neighbor Kathleen Trenchard said.
Trenchard said she and other neighbors were aware of the lawsuit filed last May alleging Elizondo and another priest, Father Jesus Armando Dominguez, had sexually abused an unidentified John Doe 33 years ago.
“The death of Father Elizondo is unfortunate,” attorney Thomas J. Henry said.
He said the co-defendant, Dominguez, is a fugitive who fled to Mexico after being charged with several counts of sexual assault involving minors in California.
Henry said the next stage in the lawsuit included discovery and the taking of depositions.
Henry said Elizondo was to undergo a deposition, a process that would have been completed in the next 30 to 60 days.
“The taking of Father Elizondo’s deposition could have led us to the truth regarding his actions,” Henry said. “His untimely death at this juncture raises even more questions. We will continue to seek and uncover the facts.”
Henry said “John Doe” was a young teenager in the early 1980s, an orphan at a shelter affiliated with the Archdiocese of San Antonio.
Elizondo had vehemently denied the allegations.
The lawsuit also lists the Archdiocese of San Antonio as a defendant, saying it “fraudulently concealed this information, allowing Dominguez and Elizondo access to children for their own sexual gratification.”
Those who knew him as “Father Virgil” have said his suicide is a tragic end for someone known for his scholarly work in Latino theology, evangelization and culture.
He went on to become a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller offered his condolences to Elizondo’s family, especially his sister, during this “devastatingly sad time.”
“This is an occasion for great sorrow, as his death was sudden and unexpected,” the archbishop said.
He said funeral arrangements are pending.