Death ruled suicide at Notre Dame HS
By JASON PORTERFIELD
A faculty member at Notre Dame Prep High School in Niles was found dead of an apparent suicide on the school campus Tuesday, April 16, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
School staff members who went to check on the man that morning because he had not been seen since the previous day found him dead in his room in the former rectory building adjacent to the school, 7655 W. Dempster St., according to the Niles Police Department.
Richard Balentine, age 38, was pronounced dead on the scene at 10:06 a.m., according to the medical examiner’s office. The cause of death was listed as asphyxiation due to hanging.
Balentine was interviewed by Niles police who were investigating a report of “inappropriate communications” with current or former Notre Dame students on the morning of April 15, according to police. The investigation was in its preliminary stages, and it had not been determined if the communications were criminal in nature or a violation of school policy, police said.
School communications director Teresa Connelly said that Balentine was staying in a room on the second floor of the rectory while he was waiting to close on a condominium that he had recently purchased. The building is east of the school, and the first floor had been converted to administrative offices, Connelly said.
“We are deeply saddened,” Connelly said. “We had a mass planned for (April 17), and we used that time to remember him.”
Connelly said that the school had been notified by police of the investigation and that staff members last saw Balentine at around 6 p.m. April 15. Connelly said that the school was not made aware of the nature of the investigation.
Balentine taught religious studies at the school for 6 years and had served as director of the campus ministry and chairman of the Religious Studies Department for 2 years, according to Connelly.
Balentine had been slated to receive the Niles Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year Award at the chamber’s annual “Night of the Roses” banquet on Saturday, April 27.