Phoenix man pleads guilty to 2014 murder of priest

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Gary Moran (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Gary Moran (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

A Phoenix man has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of a Valley priest.

Gary Moran, an ex-convict, was accused of beating a Catholic priest with a metal rod and fatally shooting another clergyman during a burglary at a Phoenix church almost three years ago.

“The defendant took the life of a devoted faith community leader, Father Kenneth Walker, and seriously injured another community servant, Father Joseph Terra. This plea ensures Moran will spend the rest of his natural life in prison and will not harm anyone in our community again,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

[RELATED: Murdered, injured priests identified; suspect(s) still on the loose]

Montgomery added, “Since the murder of Father Walker and the assault on Father Terra, the Maricopa County’s Office has developed policies to address criminals like Moran who demonstrate a history of violence at any point during their criminal career in an effort to safeguard the community as much as possible.”

On June 11, 2014, Moran entered the Mother of Mary Mission in Phoenix and attacked Father Joseph Terra. Moran hit him several times with an angle iron inflicting severe injuries and causing him to lose consciousness multiple times. At one point Father Terra attempted to get a gun from another room, however Moran wrestled the gun away from Father Terra.

A second priest, Father Kenneth Walker, was also thereafter beaten and then shot and killed by Moran. Moran stole property from both victims before leaving the mission in a vehicle belonging to one of the priests.

[RELATED: Police describe suspect in Phoenix priest attacks as 'career criminal']

Investigators were able to identify Moran through evidence at the scene along with information from the public.

Moran is set to be sentenced April 7, 2017.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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