NATIONAL NEWS

Iowa man arrested in the death of a Nebraska priest

Dec 10, 2023, 10:07 AM | Updated: 5:42 pm

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man has been arrested in the stabbing death of a Catholic priest who was attacked over the weekend in a church rectory in a small Nebraska community, authorities said.

The Rev. Stephen Gutgsell was assaulted Sunday “during an invasion” of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, the Archdiocese of Omaha said in a statement.

Gutgsell was taken to an Omaha hospital, where he died from his injuries, church officials said. Fort Calhoun, with a population of about 1,000 people, is roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Omaha.

Police received a 911 call about an attempted break-in at the church just after 5 a.m. When officers arrived, they found Gutgsell injured and a suspected attacker inside. Kierre L. Williams, 43, was arrested on charges of homicide and using a weapon to commit a felony, Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson said in a statement.

It is not clear if Williams, who is from Sioux City, Iowa, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) north of Fort Calhoun, has a lawyer. A message left at the county jail was not immediately returned.

In 2007, Gutgsell pleaded guilty to theft by deception for embezzling $127,000 from an area church. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution. He was later reassigned to another church. At the time, church leaders said Gutgsell learned his lesson, admitted wrongdoing and sought forgiveness.

Earlier this year, his brother, the Rev. Michael Gutgsell, also pled guilty to theft charges. He served as chancellor of the Omaha archdiocese from 1994 until 2003.

Robinson told WOWT-TV that authorities did not believe Stephen Gutgsell’s death was related to his criminal history. Robinson did not respond Sunday to questions on the topic from The Associated Press.

Archdiocese of Omaha spokesperson Riley Johnson declined to comment beyond confirming that Stephen and Michael Gutgsell were brothers.

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