Murdered, injured priests identified; suspect(s) still on the loose


by Jason Volentine

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonvolentine

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 11:52 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 16 at 10:38 AM

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PHOENIX -- One priest is dead and another is in critical condition after a violent altercation at a downtown Phoenix church, according to police.

The victims have been identified as the Rev. Kenneth Walker, 29, and the Rev. Joseph Terra, 56.

Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said Terra called 911 from Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church near 15th Avenue and Van Buren Street at around 9 p.m. Wednesday. Police arrived and found the two priests badly injured in the church's living quarters.

Based on Terra's call, they believe this might have been a botched burglary. 

"That particular individual was able to call police, call 911, direct officers to this location, however, was not able to provide too much information as to what actually occurred. We are hoping once that individual receives treatment and is able to pull through that we can gather some more information," Martos said.

According to Martos, Walker, who had just celebrated the second anniversary of his ordination, was shot and later died at the hospital. Terra, who talked to investigators briefly Wednesday night, was physically assaulted and remains in critical but stable condition.

Mother of Mercy parishioner Ted Brudnicki, visibly emotional, described both men as "fantastic priests -- very personal, very outgoing individuals."

"My heart is broken," parishioner Mary Frances Krumwiede said, fighting back tears.

Investigators plan to talk to Terra more as soon as he his able. Martos said Terra's statement will be essential to the investigation and any subsequent prosecution.

"He was here. He is obviously a key witness, someone who can provide detailed information or more information about this crime and the suspect or suspects," Martos explained.

Police said the suspect or suspects also stole a vehicle from the church -- a 2003 Mazda Tribute with the Arizona license plate AYK1358. That car, which belonged to Walker, was discovered just a few blocks from the church shortly after 11 p.m.

Investigators have not said what kind of evidence technicians gathered from the car.

The suspect or suspects, who have yet to be identified, are still on the loose and considered dangerous.

"When you're talking about individuals who are coming into a location like this to a church facility, commit a crime like this against individuals who are victims like this one can only imagine what they are likely to do," Martos said.

"We need our community to step forward," Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia said at a news conference late Thursday morning, more than 12 hours after the incident. "If anybody saw anything, by all means, please call the Phoenix Police Department."

If you know anything about what happened at Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church Wednesday night, please call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-6151 or Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). Spanish speakers may call 480-TESTIGO (837-8446).

Diocese of Phoenix statement on tragic attacks against priests

We are stunned and deeply saddened to learn of the tragic assault perpetrated last night against Fr. Joseph Terra and Fr. Kenneth Walker, two religious order priests who belong to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Fr. Walker's life was taken. Fr. Terra remains in critical condition but stable.

The reported attack occurred at Mater Misericordiae Mission in Phoenix.

The police are still gathering information and trying to sort through the details of this senseless act of violence. We ask that people offer prayers for both priests, the religious community, their families and the parish.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.