Accused Killer Laid on Priest in Form of a Cross After Nebraska Stabbing, Court Filings Say

Washington County Court filing describes situation in parish rectory after the priest called 911 to report a home intruder with a knife.

Police tape
Police tape (photo: Unsplash)

The suspect in the murder of a Nebraska priest was discovered lying on top of the victim forming the shape of a cross as the pastor was bleeding to death, according to an affidavit filed in the Washington County Court.

The responding officer said in the court filing that he saw the suspect, 43-year-old Kierre Williams, lying perpendicularly across 65-year-old Father Stephen Gutgsell’s chest after the stabbing. Father Gutgsell, who served as the pastor of St. John the Baptist parish in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, died from his injuries later that morning. 

“On top of the white male [Gutgsell], there was a Black male [Williams] laying on top of him with his back pressed on the white male’s chest area,” the responding officer said. “The Black male was laying on him in a perpendicular fashion (T) with his feet facing the kitchen.”

The officer said he entered the parish rectory shortly after 5 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10, after the priest called 911 to report a home intruder with a knife, according to the affidavit. When the officer arrived six minutes later, he unholstered his pistol, entered the building, and announced his presence. 

“I heard a male voice that yelled, ‘In here,’ followed by additional yelling that I could not decipher,” the officer said in the affidavit. “I then hear the voice yell, ‘Help me’; I responded by asking who else was in the house, and the voice stated ‘an intruder.’”

When the officer saw Father Gutgsell, the priest had “a severe laceration to his face and was bleeding profusely,” according to the statement. Officers who came to the scene to provide backup and perform lifesaving measures on Father Gutgsell identified more lacerations on his face, hands and back, the affidavit alleges.

Although Williams complied with the officer at the scene, the affidavit claims he became “aggressive” in the interrogation room. It states he “aggressively stood up, pushing the table away from himself” and approached the officer “in an aggressive and hurried manner.” With the assistance of two corrections officers, the affidavit states Williams was secured in a restraining chair.

Williams was charged with first-degree murder and three other felonies: use of a dangerous or deadly weapon to commit a felony, burglary and possession of a weapon by a prohibited person. Williams is a convicted felon for possession of cocaine and fleeing and eluding law enforcement with a deadly weapon. 

“We continue to pray that the Lord of mercy and love will welcome Father Gutgsell into his heavenly kingdom,” Omaha Archbishop George Lucas said in a Dec. 11 statement. “May Our Blessed Mother intercede for us all as we grieve his death.”

St. John the Baptist Church, where Father Gutgsell was the pastor, will hold a visitation at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17, and a vigil and Rosary at 7 p.m. that evening. His funeral Mass will be held at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha at 11:15 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 18, and he will be buried at Calvary Cemetery. His funeral Mass will be livestreamed on YouTube