Parishioners and Fort Calhoun community members gathered inside the packed St. John the Baptist Catholic Church Sunday evening to pray and mourn the loss of Fr. Stephen Gutgsell.
While there "are no words" to describe the tragedy, said Fr. Damien Wee, who led the prayer service, "We have faith... we have prayer... and we have hope."
Fr. Stephen Gutgsell, 65, was pronounced dead from stabbing injuries sustained during an attack at the rectory near St. John the Baptist early Sunday morning.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office announced in an updated press release that Kierre L. Williams of Sioux City, Iowa, 43, was arrested for homicide and use of a weapon to commit a felony.
According to an earlier Sunday press release from Sheriff Mike Robinson, "At approximately 0505 hours on the morning of Dec. 10, 2023, Washington County 911 Center received a call of an attempted break in at the St. John’s Catholic Church rectory in Fort Calhoun."
The release states deputies arrived at the scene six minutes later and found a male suspect, Williams, inside the rectory, and Gutgsell suffering from injuries sustained from an assault.
"Father (Gutgsell) was transported to UNMC by the Fort Calhoun Rescue where he later died from his injuries," the release states.
Williams was taken into custody and booked at the Washington County Jail.
In a conversation with the Enterprise, Robinson said he wanted to reassure the community that there is no danger to the public.
This is the second homicide to occur in Fort Calhoun during 2023 and the third in Washington County.
Deacon Jerry Mapes said the loss of Gutgsell is "a shock" to the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Fort Calhoun community.
"I looked out into the crowd tonight and I saw faces that I did not recognize, so I know this was a wound to the entire community," he said.
Mapes, who has worked with Gutgsell since he first started at the church more than a decade ago, said Gutgsell was an "integral part of this community.
"We're going to miss him greatly," Mapes said. "We're doing the best we can to cope. He's a man of great faith. We're going to miss him. We're really going to miss him."