Crime Trackers

Jul 31, 2013 1:24 PM by Lupita Murillo

Missing Benson priest found OK

BENSON - A Benson priest goes missing after finding out he's an investigative lead in a case Pinal County Sheriff's detectives are working.

Fr. Mike Bucciarelli was returning from a reunion in Reno on Saturday when he learned detectives needed to talk with him. Pinal County won't say what the case involves or the allegations.

The Benson Police Department has been searching for Fr. Mike since Saturday. They learned his GPS was disabled from his car around Eloy. They also tracked his last cell phone call from the Marsh Station area. Chief Paul Moncada says, "As far as Benson Police is concerned the investigation into his disappearance is over now that he has made contact."

Today Fr. Mike made contact with the Pinal County Sheriff's detective who wanted to interview the priest to discuss the case and allegations. Pinal County then contacted Benson police and confirmed, "His absence was voluntary and that he is was supposed to be out of the country."

Meanwhile parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes say their prayers have been answered. Fr. Mike is safe and is coming back. Mary Jarvis says, "A lot of people worried about him and he's a very nice priest."

Fr. Mike was ordained in 1975 here in Southern Arizona. He's served in many parishes, including Tucson.
So his disappearing and then reappearing has parishioners such as Jim Boyd wondering why.

"He's always there at the church and then all of a sudden he's gone. Like he vanished."

Besides calling Pinal County Sheriff's detectives, Fr. Mike also contacted Bishop Gerald Kicanas. "When I talked with him today he certainly seemed O-K , eager to come back so we are looking forward to his return."

So why did Fr. Mike disappear for 3 days? Bishop Kicanas says, "I think everybody experiences personal distress and sometimes make decisions that probably aren't the best decisions and obviously it wasn't a good decision not to tell someone that he was feeling distressed."

According to an email from Pinal County Sheriff's department, detectives are working with Mr. Bucciarelli and church officials at this time in an attempt to meet to discuss the allegations.

The Diocese wouldn't comment and referred News 4 Tucson to the law enforcement agency conducting the investigation.

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