Justice on Trial: The Murder of a Nebraska Priest

Nebraska prosecutors have officially charged 43-year-old Kierre L. Williams with first-degree murder, burglary, and two weapons charges in connection with the tragic stabbing death of Reverend Stephen Gutgsell, a Catholic priest at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun. The horrifying incident unfolded during a break-in at the church rectory, where Gutgsell valiantly cried out for help before succumbing to the fatal attack.

According to the affidavit filed along with the charges, deputies responded to Gutgsell’s distress call just after 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The details presented in the document shed light on the grim scene that awaited law enforcement at the rectory. Although the affidavit does not delve into the motive behind the attack, it does assert that the killing was premeditated and carried out deliberately within the context of a burglary. Strikingly absent from the available information is any discernible connection between Williams and the 65-year-old priest.

The harrowing 911 call made by Gutgsell revealed the immediacy and intensity of the situation. The operator reportedly heard a struggle and desperate screams over the phone after the priest reported the intrusion, detailing that a Black man wielding a knife was present in his kitchen.

Deputy Brady Tucker, the first responder to the scene, recounted in the affidavit that upon his arrival, he discovered signs of forced entry through the front door. After identifying himself, Tucker heard a voice from the kitchen uttering, “I’m here” and pleading, “Help me.” Upon inquiry about other individuals in the home, the voice indicated the presence of an intruder.

As Tucker ventured further into the residence, he encountered a gruesome tableau. Gutgsell, found lying in the kitchen, was extensively wounded, with profuse bleeding from injuries on his face, hands, and back. Shockingly, Williams was discovered lying atop the priest, adding a disturbing layer to the unfolding tragedy.

Subsequent investigation uncovered the weapon used in the heinous crime—a bloodied knife—located in a bedroom of the residence, adjacent to a sizable pool of blood. The court documents, however, offer no explanation as to why this significant evidence was found in a bedroom, leaving critical aspects of the incident yet to be unveiled.

The community of Fort Calhoun finds itself grappling with the profound impact of this senseless act of violence, as authorities work to unravel the details surrounding the motive and circumstances of the priest’s untimely death.