An Iowa man is in custody after allegedly attacking a Catholic priest in his residence early Sunday, fatally stabbing him in what the Archdiocese of Omaha described as “an invasion” of a church rectory.
The Rev. Stephen Gutgsell, 65, was found injured at the scene by responding deputies after cops received a 911 call around 5 a.m, according to a statement from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. He was taken by ambulance to an Omaha hospital around 17 miles from St. John the Baptist Church in Fort Calhoun, and later died of his injuries.
The alleged assailant was taken into custody at the scene, Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson said. Robinson identified the suspect as Kierre L. Williams, 43, of Sioux City, Iowa and confirmed that he was later arrested on suspicion of homicide and use of a weapon to commit a felony.
Mike Fitzgerald, a member of the congregation at St. John’s, told the The Omaha World-Herald that 8:30 a.m. mass had been canceled that morning. “Father Gutgsell has been here 11 years, and I thought he was a very holy man,” Fitzgerald said.
Gutgsell previously made headlines in 2007, according to the Associated Press, when he pleaded guilty to stealing $127,000 from a different parish. He was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution, and was later reassigned. Church officials said at the time that Gutgsell had learned his lesson, the wire reported.
In 2021, Gutgsell’s brother, also a priest, was arrested for stealing thousands of dollars from a retired priest who had willed his estate to the church. Michael Gutgsell pleaded guilty to theft charges last year. He served as chancellor of the Omaha archdiocese from 1994 until 2003, according to the AP.
Sheriff Robinson told local station WOWT that police do not believe Gutgsell’s death was related to his past misdeeds. An archdiocese spokesperson declined to comment to the AP beyond confirming Stephen and Michael were brothers.