Catholic Priest Found Stabbed to Death at Church

Fort Calhoun, Nebraska – A Catholic priest was fatally stabbed early Sunday morning by a suspect who broke into the church’s rectory, according to authorities and church officials. Father Stephen Gutgsell was found with stab wounds and was rushed to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The suspect, Kierre Williams, was still in the rectory when authorities arrived and has been arrested for homicide and the use of a weapon to commit a felony.

The incident took place at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun, a small city located 20 miles north of Omaha. Law enforcement initially responded to an attempted break-in at the church, which led to the discovery of the attack. The Archdiocese of Omaha described the incident as an “invasion at the rectory.”

Father Gutgsell, who served at the church for 11 years, was known as a “very holy man” by parishioner Mike Fitzgerald. Cancellation of the usual 8:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday left parishioners shocked and grieving the loss of a beloved priest.

Notably, more than a decade ago, Father Gutgsell pleaded guilty to theft by deception for embezzling $127,000 from another church. He was sentenced to probation and restitution and had been reassigned to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church after church leaders believed he had learned from his mistake and sought forgiveness. Washington Sheriff Mike Robinson stated that his office does not believe the priest’s past criminal trouble is connected to his death.

The Washington County District Attorney’s Office is expected to provide further information about the incident. The tragic event has prompted the Archdiocese of Omaha to request prayers for Father Gutgsell, his family, and the St. John the Baptist parish community.