New Mexico priest dies by suicide amid child sex abuse investigation

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By Daniel Payne

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said last week that a former priest charged in a child sex abuse case ended his own life ahead of a court hearing on the matter.

The archdiocese said in a press release that Daniel Balizan had “taken his life” ahead of “a hearing in a child sexual abuse case.” Local media reported that Balizan’s body was found on Friday morning in Springer, New Mexico.

Balizan’s “tragic decision to end his life underscores the far-reaching and devastating consequences of the crime of child abuse — affecting victims, their loved ones, and even perpetrators themselves,” the archdiocese said in its Friday statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico announced Balizan’s indictment in June of last year. He was accused of coercing and enticing a child under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity. The alleged abuse reportedly occurred between 2012 and 2022.

The prosecutor’s office said last year that Balizan “allegedly used text messages to coerce and entice a minor victim … to engage in sexual activity with him.”

The archdiocese said after his arrest last year that upon receiving the allegations in 2022 it “promptly reported” them to the authorities, “leading to Balizan’s immediate removal as the pastor of Santa Maria de la Paz in Santa Fe.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys had announced at the beginning of May that Balizan had agreed to a plea deal in the case. Balizan requested “that he be permitted to remain out of custody pending the sentencing hearing,” the plea filing said.

The 61-year-old was facing a minimum of 10 years in prison on the charges.

Balizan was ordained in 1989 and had served at eight parishes in the Santa Fe Archdiocese before his arrest.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that the former priest had been released to the custody of his brother after being arrested.

In the intervening months Balizan had “done bookkeeping, housekeeping, and groundskeeping work at the small family hotel,” his lawyer had said in a filing earlier this month.

The former priest “also has been visiting and assisting his 89-year-old mother three days a week,” his attorney said.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe said in its Friday statement that it “reaffirm[ed] its zero tolerance and unwavering dedication to ensuring the safety and well-being of its community members, especially the vulnerable.”

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