.- Over a week ago, Bishop Donald Pelotte of the Diocese of Gallup was taken to the hospital after sustaining severe head injuries in a fall. However, when he arrived at the emergency room, the doctor on call noted that his injuries were not consistent with a fall and called the police.
According to Deacon Timoteo Lujan, Pelotte's assistant and the chancellor of the diocese, the severity of Pelotte's injuries caused the emergency room physician to wonder if the 62-year-old bishop had possibly been a victim of a violent assault.
However, according to the Gallup Independent, Bishop Pelotte has insisted that he was not assaulted by anyone and that his injuries are the result of a fall down a staircase at his home. The Bishop remains in the intensive care unit at the John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix.
The Bishop’s accident was discovered by Lujan on Monday afternoon when Pelotte failed to show for a 2 p.m. appointment at work, causing a concerned Lujan to drive to the bishop’s home. Lujan had a key to the house and let himself in. When he entered he discovered blood on the tile floor at the bottom of the carpeted stairway, which leads up to Pelotte's bedroom, and became alarmed.
When Lujan went upstairs and unlocked the bishop's bedroom door, he found him severely injured.
The police report says Lujan found Pelotte "heavily bruised across the face, along the chest area, both arms, the knuckles, the legs, and the feet." Lujan suspected someone may have assaulted the bishop, but a conscious Pelotte told Lujan that was not the case.
The Gallup Police Department reports that currently the incident is not under investigation because of Pelotte's insistence that a fall caused his injuries. However, an investigation could be launched if new information indicated it was warranted.
Although Deacon Lujan admitted he has his own questions about what caused the bishop's injuries, he does know that the house was secure when he entered it. "Nothing is missing," he said. "I can tell you nobody broke in," he added.
And even though the bishop has insisted he was not assaulted, Lujan said a number of people have questioned the bishop's claim. "He looks like he got beat up," Lujan admitted.
The idea that someone might actually want to physically harm Pelotte is based in not-too-distant history. In 2004, the Gallup Diocese was thrust into the headlines when Derek Kolb, a former Catholic seminary student, admitted to the police that he had tried to poison an elderly Catholic sister in order to gain more attention from her caretaker, Father Thomas Maikowski.
A year later, Kolb made headlines again when the diocese announced Kolb had threaten to kill Pelotte. Although attempted murder charges were initially filed in the first case, Kolb eventually signed a plea agreement to a charge of harassment. The second allegation just fizzled out with a string of probation revocation hearings.
"He was really anxious about Derek Kolb for a long time," said Lujan, adding that Pelotte received an apologetic card from Kolb a couple of months ago.