COVID-19 crisis delays probe of former priest’s prison death

COVID-19 crisis delays probe of former priest’s prison death

PINCKNEYVILLE, IL — Officials say the investigation into the death of a southern Illinois priest who died shortly after going to prison for child pornography and drug possession has been delayed because of the coronavirus crisis.

Perry County Coroner Paul Searby told the Belleville News-Democrat that it is impossible to determine the cause of 56-year-old Gerald Hechenberger’s March 6 death because he hasn’t received the investigative reports from the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The warden of Pinckneyville Correctional Center, where Hechenberger had just begun serving a 9-year sentence, agrees that the virus crisis has delayed the probe.

Hechenberger was a priest at a  Mascoutah church when he was arrested in 2018.

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