Police Say Priest Stabbed Himself
.c The Associated Press

WARREN, Ohio (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest who claimed he was stabbed 88 times by two intruders actually wounded himself in a suicide attempt, police said Tuesday.

The Rev. Thomas Spisak, who is white, called 911 on June 14 and told authorities that two black men broke into the rectory at Christ Our King, where he is pastor, and knifed him.

"I'm in pretty bad shape," he said in the call. "They wanted me to open the safe. I didn't open the safe for them. ... I had some money, but I don't think they took it."

However, as he was recovering in a hospital on Monday, he told investigators that he stabbed himself, apparently because he was depressed over his medical bills, police said.

In the hours before the stabbing, Spisak also swallowed a handful of Advil pain relievers and drank peroxide, but vomited the mixture back up.

He was in stable condition Tuesday.

Police Chief Albert J. Timko said the priest's story was suspicious from the start - an investigator saw no sign of forced entry, no footprints, no smudges and no money taken. No suspect was ever questioned.

Timko said the stab wounds ranged from "the smallest cut to two serious chest wounds."

James "Doc" Pugh, president of the local chapter of the NAACP said he was concerned by Spisak's claim that his attackers were black. But Pugh said he also had sympathy for the priest.

"Priests are only human, too, and sometimes their faith doesn't shelter them from borderline insanity," he said. "Our prayers go out to the priest for his recovery - both mental and physical."

The police chief said it is unlikely the priest will be charged with a crime such as filing a false report.

AP-NY-06-23-98 1640EDT


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