Pittsburgh Pastor Commits Suicide in Wake of TV Probe
- January 11, 2007
Pittsburgh pastor commits suicide in wake of TV probe
Dugan admitted to having sexual encounters with a man
by Evan Silverstein
PCUSA News Service
LOUISVILLE - A Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh took his
own life late last year after learning that a local
television station was about to broadcast an expose on his
sex life that alleged illegal behavior.
The body of the Rev. Brent J. Dugan, 60, pastor of Community
Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon in suburban Pittsburgh, was
found Nov. 3 in a motel room in Mercer County, PA, located
about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, according to local
The Mercer County coroner's office said Dugan died that day
of an overdose of alcohol and aspirin and ruled his death a
suicide, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said.
KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, which is owned and operated by CBS,
planed to air an investigation of Dugan in what the station
called "reports of public and illegal sexual behavior."
Dugan learned of the investigation after KDKA ran promos for
the scheduled broadcast, the Post-Gazette said. The
promotions, which did not identify Dugan, referred only to a
Dugan acknowledged in a letter he left behind for his
congregation, which he had pastored since 1988, that he had
occasional sexual encounters with a man who eventually
betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore
where KDKA-TV recorded him, according to the Post-Gazette.
The Post-Gazette said the reporter who conducted the
investigation explained during a broadcast that he had been
working on the piece for a month and had "uncovered illicit,
possibly illegal, activity by a local minister, activities
which at the very least violated the rules of his
Ironically, the station decided the night before Dugan
killed himself not to air the story after it received
information from someone close to Dugan that indicated that
he was considering doing harm to himself, the Post-Gazette
said, adding that it was not clear if Dugan ever knew that
the station had decided not to run the segment.
A statement released by the session of Community
Presbyterian Church said, "we are a community in grief" over
"As a favorite person to many of us, our beloved pastor is
now gone, and we will never understand all of the reasons
for his actions," the statement said. "But we will cherish
the many gifts he gave to us each week and each year as he
helped to make our lives full of the Word and grace of God."
The Rev. Jim Mead, pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, said in
a statement posted on the presbytery's Web site that "Brent
was and is deeply respected in this presbytery, known for
the fruit he bore in ministry, his caring and
thoughtfulness, and for his humble, missional leadership. He
was a very dear man."
Mead, who could not be reached for additional comment, read
the letter Dugan wrote to Community Presbyterian Church
during a Pittsburgh Presbytery meeting last month, according
to the Post-Gazette.
In the letter, Dugan apologized for the shame he believed he
had brought on the presbytery, the newspaper said. Dugan
said he had struggled with his sexuality all his adult life,
hoping to fall in love with a woman, but concluding he was
to devote his life only to his congregation, according to
Dugan said he did so until four years ago, when he became
close friends with a man who claimed to love him, and with
whom he had occasional sexual encounters, according to the
Post-Gazette. That man cajoled him into leaving specific
kinds of sexual fantasies on his answering machine, and then
betrayed him by setting up a meeting at an adult bookstore,
where KDKA-TV recorded him, Dugan wrote.
He urged his fellow pastors to renounce any sins they might
be tempted to commit and live pure lives. He also explained
that just before KDKA confronted him, he had accepted a call
to become pastor of a congregation in Northern California.
Dugan was a graduate of Edinboro College in Edinboro, PA;
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary; and Duquesne University in
Pittsburgh. Survivors include his mother, Joyce Lawson
(Dugan) Decker of Edinboro; and a brother, Brenda Petrick
Dugan of Cambridge Springs, PA.
Community Presbyterian church was formed in 1987 when Ben
Avon's two Presbyterian churches, Ben Avon Presbyterian
Church on Church Avenue and Woodland United Presbyterian
Church on Dickson Avenue, joined together due to declining
The Rev. Jean H. Henderson, interim pastor of Community
Presbyterian Church, said in a message she read at a
memorial service for Dugan that was later posted on the
church's Web site, that "forgiveness pours from our eyes and
our hearts and our mouths for you today, Brent. But peace in
our hearts? That will take a while, at least for me. Some of
us are having trouble forgiving ourselves that we couldn't
have prevented your suicide - that somehow we didn't hear
your silent screams and your masked loneliness. Peace will
come, Brent, maybe in the morning, maybe in the morning."