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Suspect charged in fatal stabbing of priest had ‘lengthy’ criminal history in multiple states: Prosecutor

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(FORT CALHOUN, Neb.) — The suspect accused of fatally stabbing a Nebraska priest after breaking into a church rectory earlier this week was ordered held without bond during his arraignment on murder and burglary charges Thursday.


The suspect — Kierre L. Williams, 43 — has a “lengthy criminal history from several different states,” though he had no known connection to the state of Nebraska or the victim, Washington County Attorney M. Scott VanderSchaaf said during a press briefing following the hearing.

VanderSchaaf said he believes the judge took the suspect’s criminal history into advisement when setting no bond. Williams has been convicted of at least one felony, according to VanderSchaaf, who declined to elaborate on the suspect’s history amid the court proceedings.

Williams allegedly “forcibly” entered the rectory at the St. John’s Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun early Sunday, VanderSchaaf said. The victim — Rev. Stephen Gutgsell — had called 911 to report a possible intruder, Washington County Sheriff Mike Robinson told reporters Thursday.

Gutgsell encountered the suspect in the rectory and was stabbed once in the face and twice in the back, VanderSchaaf said. First responders attempted lifesaving measures but the priest died from his injuries at a local hospital, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.

Williams was taken into custody at the scene, Robinson said.

Robinson declined to comment on where the knife came from or how the break-in occurred.

In addition to first-degree murder and burglary, Williams has been charged with use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony and possession of a deadly/dangerous weapon by a prohibited person.

VanderSchaaf also declined to comment on a possible motive due to the ongoing court proceedings, but said “we have an idea of what the scenario was.”

“What we’ve got to piece together is how Mr. Williams gets into the community,” VanderSchaaf said.

Williams worked at a meat-packing plant in Sioux City, Iowa, and had a vehicle, though it is unclear where he was living, VanderSchaaf said.

Williams’ attorney, Brian Craig of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, told ABC News in a statement that it would be “inappropriate to offer any comment” at this time. Williams’ next court appearance has been scheduled for Jan. 3.

A funeral for Gutgsell, 65, will take place on Monday in Omaha, the Archdiocese of Omaha said.

“We continue to pray that the Lord of mercy and love will welcome Father Gutgsell into his Heavenly kingdom,” Archbishop of Omaha George J. Lucas said in a statement. “May Our Blessed Mother intercede for us all as we grieve his death.”

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