Nebraska Priest, Bleeding From Multiple Stab Wounds, Yelled ‘Help Me’ When Deputy Arrived

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
December 13, 2023US News
Nebraska Priest, Bleeding From Multiple Stab Wounds, Yelled ‘Help Me’ When Deputy Arrived
The Rev. Stephen Gutgsell. (Archdiocese of Omaha via AP)

OMAHA, Neb.—Moments after a Nebraska priest called 911 to report that a man was standing in his kitchen with a knife, a dispatcher on the line heard screaming and a struggle. A deputy arriving a few minutes later heard the priest shout, “Help me,” before he found the man lying near the kitchen, bleeding profusely, according to murder charges filed Tuesday.

Nebraska prosecutors charged Kierre L. Williams, 43, with first-degree murder, burglary, and two weapons counts in the stabbing of the Rev. Stephen Gutgsell, a priest at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun. Authorities said Mr. Gutgsell was attacked during a break-in at the church rectory, a crime that rocked the small town just north of Omaha.

An affidavit filed along with the charges details what deputies found when they arrived at the rectory, which is a home next to the church.

The documents did not detail any motive for the attack except to say the killing happened during a burglary. There is no mention of any prior connection between Mr. Williams and the 65-year-old priest.

After Mr. Gutgsell called 911 around 5 a.m. Sunday to report that a man was standing in his kitchen with a knife, the operator heard a struggle and screaming over the phone, according to the affidavit.

Washington County Deputy Brady Tucker said in the affidavit that the front door had been forced open when he arrived at the house. After he identified himself, he heard a man call out, “I’m here” from the direction of the kitchen and “Help me.” When the deputy asked who else was in the home the voice said “an intruder.”

Court documents say Mr. Gutgsell was bleeding profusely from wounds on his face, hands, and back when he was found lying in his kitchen with Mr. Williams sprawled on top of him. Mr. Williams was perpendicular to Mr. Gutgsell, with his back on top of the priest’s chest.

This booking photo shows Kierre L. Williams on Dec. 10, 2023. (Washington County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

The bloody knife used in the attack was found later in a bedroom next to a large pool of blood. Court documents did not explain how the struggle unfolded.

The rectory where Mr. Gutgsell lived is a one-story home with a two-car garage. It is newer but smaller than most of the homes in the neighborhood surrounding the church, which bears a cornerstone saying it was built in 1982.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said Mr. Williams is from Sioux City, Iowa, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Fort Calhoun, a town of about 1,000 residents.

Mr. Tucker said in his affidavit that he learned Mr. Williams was a felon with multiple warrants. Public records show Mr. Williams has been convicted of crimes in multiple states, including a drug possession case in Texas and more than a dozen cases in Florida dating back to his teens. He was recently charged with misdemeanor assault in a July soup kitchen fight in Sioux City, Iowa. He was homeless at the time of the fight, court records show.

Mr. Williams does not have a lawyer yet in Nebraska and will make his initial court appearance Thursday. His public defender in the Iowa assault case said he did not know anything about the Nebraska case and hung up on an Associated Press reporter Tuesday.

Mr. Gutgsell’s stabbing is the second killing in Fort Calhoun this year, unnerving residents of the normally tranquil town. Both killings happened during break-ins where there was no clear connection between the intruders and the victims, making them all the more troubling.

“It shouldn’t happen in a small town like this,” bar owner Andy Faucher said Monday as people gathered a few blocks from where Mr. Gutgsell was stabbed. Mr. Faucher said the fact that this latest killing involved a priest only “intensifies the scariness of the situation.”

By Josh Funk

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