The priest's death 'is apparently a very tragic end of a very troubled journey,' the bishop says.
WARREN -- An autopsy will be performed today on Father Thomas Spisak, who was found dead Thursday afternoon in St. Mary's Church Rectory.
Father Spisak, 60, was found unresponsive in his bed with an apparent gunshot wound, police said. Police received an emergency call from the rectory, 232 Seneca St., at about 4 p.m., and a Trumbull County coroner's representative was called.
Police said the coroner's investigation should be completed in four to six weeks. They would not release details of their findings.
Filed false report
Father Spisak returned to Warren and moved into St. Mary's rectory late in 1999 after making a public apology and pleading guilty in February of that year to filing a false police report about being attacked by black teens. He was sentenced to two days in the former Warren Workhouse.
Police said the priest falsely reported he was attacked and tortured June 13, 1998, by two teenagers in the rectory of Christ Our King Church on Tod Avenue S.W. Police said Father Spisak had attempted suicide and made up the story about the attack to cover up the attempt. He admitted to police that he stabbed himself 88 times, drank hydrogen peroxide and took numerous pain pills.
He resigned June 24, 1998, from his positions at Christ Our King and Sts. Cyril and Methodius churches and spent several months in Canada receiving treatment. Bishop Thomas Tobin, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, and other clergy and city officials launched a racial reconciliation campaign here after Father Spisak's resignation.
"We are very saddened to learn of the sudden death of Father Thomas Spisak. Although the circumstances of his death are not yet clear, this is apparently a very tragic end of a very troubled journey," Bishop Tobin said. "We extend our sincere sympathy to all who mourn the loss of Father Spisak. We are grateful for the long and devoted service Father Spisak generously offered to God's people. And we pray that the Good Lord will grant rest and peace to his immortal soul."
A native of Campbell, Father Spisak received his bachelor's degree from Youngstown State University in 1964 and a master's degree in education in 1967 from Westminster College. He taught at Campbell's Penhale and McCartney schools. He entered the Order of the Most Holy Trinity in Baltimore in 1972 and obtained his master of divinity degree in 1977 from St. Mary's Seminary. He was ordained in April 1977 and celebrated his first Mass shortly thereafter in St. John the Baptist Church in Campbell.
During the 1980s he served as associate pastor at St. Rose Church in Girard, St. Joseph Church in Massillon, St. Mary's Church in Warren and St. Patrick Church in Kent before becoming pastor of Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Warren in 1990.