A former Roman Catholic priest who was one of the most notorious figures in the Diocese of Rockville Centre's child sex abuse scandal has died in Florida, authorities said.
Brian McKeon, 58, was found dead in his home in Port Richey, Fla., on Monday about 11:30 a.m., the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said. He had become sick at about 3 a.m., coughing up blood and suffering a seizure, a roommate told authorities.
McKeon refused medical care and became unresponsive after another seizure and vomiting more blood. The sheriff's report said McKeon, an unemployed nurse, suffered health problems, "most of which were believed to have been caused by Brian's chronic alcoholism."
But McKeon's death does not mean the numerous cases linked to him are over, Northport attorney Douglas McNally, who said he represents nine of McKeon's alleged victims, said Thursday.
If a bill in Albany becomes law, McNally said, victims could still file civil lawsuits against the diocese, charging negligent hiring and supervision of McKeon.
The bill, sponsored by Assemb. Margaret Markey (D- Maspeth), would drop the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases for a year. McKeon was never charged with a crime, largely because the cases' statute of limitations had expired.
The church is fighting the bill, saying it could bankrupt it and that it is discriminatory because it does not include public institutions such as schools.
In 25 years as a priest, McKeon served in parishes in Holbrook, East Northport, Garden City and Mattituck. Diocesan spokesman Sean Dolan said Bishop William Murphy removed McKeon from active ministry in fall 2001 following accusations he had sexually molested boys. The pope laicized, or permanently removed, McKeon from the priesthood two years later.
The father of an alleged victim who testified before a Suffolk grand jury identified McKeon as "Priest C" in a report the jury issued in 2003. The report said McKeon "wreaked havoc" by abusing boys as young as 10. "For this, he was rewarded by being a pastor."
In a March 2002 interview with Newsday, McKeon acknowledged he had made "a mistake" more than a decade earlier by inappropriately touching boys. He said he had not been involved in any incident since, noting, "I was wrong, and I admitted I was wrong."
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said, "Although the death of former Father Brian McKeon may bring him the peace he so sadly missed in this life, it will not bring peace to the many victims he molested/raped in the Diocese of Rockville Centre."
"The childhood innocence of so many were shattered," the group said, "because too many bishops, chancery officials, pastors, priests, parishioners chose to be silent and look the other way."
Dolan responded that "any victim of clergy abuse that has a credible claim - whether the case is legally time-barred or not - has been cared for by the church. We continue to encourage victims of abuse to come forward" to report abuse.