Blog Post

Troubled Nebraska Priest Stabbed to Death in Rectory

Father Stephen Gutgsell, 65, was stabbed to death in the rectory of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska on December 10. The murder of Father Gutgsell, who had a troubled past, marks the 100th attack on Catholic churches in 2023.

According to Catholic Vote, police received a call from Father Gutgsell at around 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning reporting that someone was attempting to break into the rectory. Local police responded immediately and arrived at the scene to find Father Gutgsell mortally wounded from stab wounds. His attacker, a repeat offender named Kierre Williams, 43, was still in the building.

Father Gutgsell was transported to Nebraska Medicine in Omaha where he died of his injuries.

Williams, who is from Sioux City, Iowa, was taken to Washington County jail.

Police say the investigation is ongoing, however, they do not suspect anti-Catholic sentiment as the cause of the attack because Williams has a record of attacking seemingly random targets.

It also seems unlikely that the attack had any connection to a previous offense committed by Father Gutgsell in 2007 when he was charged with stealing more than $125,000 from the Omaha parish where he served.

According to The Pillar, Gutgsell admitted to stealing the money in order to pay off credit card debts. Even though he could have faced 20 years in prison for the crime, Gutgsell was given five years probation and 500 hours of community service in addition to attending a residential treatment program in South Down Institute, a Canadian psychological treatment facility for priests and religions. At the time of his release from probation, he had $13,000 left to repay and was continuing to make payments at the time of his death.

Gutgsell’s brother, Father Michael Gutgsell, 74, who is who is also a priest in the Archdiocese of Omaha, pled guilty in June to two misdemeanor charges of theft almost two years after he was charged with stealing nearly $200,000 from an elderly priest. Father Michael Gutgsell also stole thousands from his parish which he gave, along with hundreds of thousands of his own savings, to an Omaha homeless man who be believed would pay him back. At this time, it is unclear if Father Michael Gutgsell will be returned to ministry.

This tragic incident marks the 100th attack on a Catholic church this year.

Since starting their Catholic Accountability Project (CAP) in 2020, which documents attacks on churches, Catholic Vote reports that there have been 384 attacks since civil unrest began in 2020, with 100 of these incidents occurring this year.

Sadly, CAP Director Tommy Valentine said in the vast majority of these cases, the perpetrators are never persecuted.

“CatholicVote has found evidence of an arrest in connection with an attack against a church in only about 25% of cases,” Valentine said.

At least 219 attacks were perpetrated against Catholic churches since the draft Supreme Court opinion proposing to reverse Roe v. Wade was leaked in early May 2022. Many of these attacks included grafitti with pro-abortion messages scrawled on churches.

“We live in an era where we see condemnation of bigotry in most forms,” Valentine told Fox News’ Rachel Campos-Duffy in this interview. “But what we’re seeing is over 300 instances of attacks of violence and vandalism against Catholic churches in the United States in the last three years.”

In the case of the attack on Father Gutgsell, the violence turned deadly.

“The Archdiocese of Omaha is praying for Father Stephen Gutgsell, who was assaulted during an invasion at the rectory of St. John the Baptist parish in Fort Calhoun early Sunday morning,” the Archdiocese said in a statement. “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.”

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