Father Stephen Gutgsell. / Credit: Archdiocese of Omaha
CNA Staff, Dec 11, 2023 / 13:35 pm (CNA).
A Catholic priest in Nebraska died Sunday after being stabbed at a parish rectory, the Archdiocese of Omaha said. Police identified a suspect in the case late on Sunday.
The archdiocese said in a statement that Father Stephen Gutgsell was assaulted “during an invasion at the rectory of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fort Calhoun early Sunday morning.”
“Father Gutgsell was transported to Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, where he died of his injuries,” the archdiocese said.
“The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is investigating, and there are no further details at this time. Please join Archbishop George Lucas in prayer for the repose of Father Gutgsell, for his family, and for the St. John the Baptist Parish community in this tragic time.”
Gutgsell was listed on St. John the Baptist’s website as the parish’s pastor. Fort Calhoun is located about 10 miles north of downtown Omaha.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post on Sunday that deputies arrived at the scene of the incident six minutes after an emergency call was placed. At the rectory, police “located a black male suspect” on the premises and arrested him.
The sheriff’s office named the suspect as 43-year-old Sioux City, Iowa, resident Kierre Williams. No motive was given in the press release, though the sheriff’s office said the incident involved an “attempted break-in.”
The sheriff’s office said the Washington County Attorney’s Office would be handling further media releases. Erik Petersen, the chief deputy attorney with that office, told CNA on Monday morning that he anticipated “charges will be filed by our office this afternoon or Tuesday morning.”
“We are waiting for the autopsy to be performed and to allow our detectives to finish their investigation,” he said.
Archdiocesan spokesman Riley Johnson, meanwhile, said that Archbishop Lucas “celebrated Sunday Mass with St. John the Baptist parishioners at St. Francis Borgia Parish in nearby Blair, Nebraska.”
“He spoke with several of Father Gutgsell’s parishioners individually after Mass,” Johnson said. The archdiocese, he said, planned to announce an update on oversight of St. John’s later on Monday.
In 2007, Gutgsell pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $100,000 from St. Patrick Catholic Church in South Omaha. He received five years of probation in connection with that case. He returned to priestly ministries later that same year.
The priest grew up in Omaha and attended the College of St. Thomas — now the University of St. Thomas — and St. Paul Seminary; he was ordained in 1984.
His LinkedIn page says he taught “adult education in the areas of Bible study, Church history, sacramental preparation, and Catholic theology.”
Gutgsell’s brother, Michael — who is also a priest and was previously the chancellor of the diocese — earlier this year pleaded guilty to financial crimes in which he stole over $150,000 from an elderly priest.
Father Michael Gutgsell had also been charged with stealing nearly $100,000 from St. Joseph Church in Springfield, Nebraska, where he had served as pastor. Those charges were dropped when he reportedly repaid the parish in full.
The priest reportedly stole the funds and gave them — along with considerable amounts of his own money — to a homeless man in the Omaha area, he told investigators. He was given two years’ probation for his guilty plea.