Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this photo provided by The Catholic Sun, date not known, the Rev. Kenneth Walker, left, and the Rev. Joseph Terra perform a Mass in Phoenix. Walker was killed and Terra was critically injured during a robbery attempt at Mother of Mercy Mission church on Wednesday, June 11, 2014. (AP Photo/The Catholic Sun)
Police: Priest killed with gun owned by colleague
First Published Jun 16 2014 09:03 am • Last Updated Jun 16 2014 05:41 pm

Phoenix • A homeless ex-convict with a history of violence and drug abuse was arrested Monday on suspicion of killing a clergyman with a handgun that had been retrieved by another priest after he was hit with an iron rod at a Phoenix church, police said.

Police say the Rev. Joseph Terra went to investigate noises in a church courtyard and was attacked by 54-year-old Gary Michael Moran with the piece of metal before the priest fled and got a .357-caliber gun from his bedroom.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Moran wrestled the weapon away from the injured priest and killed Terra’s assistant, the Rev. Kenneth Walker, after he rushed to the aid of his colleague, court records show.

Moran stole a camera and fled in Walker’s car, police said.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia called the attack "a violent, tragic, horrifying offense" committed by a career criminal who had been out of prison only six weeks. Moran had served about eight years on charges that included aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

In the 2005 case, police said, Moran entered a Phoenix apartment, found a steak knife, went into the bedroom and stabbed a man in the abdomen without provocation before being subdued.

Moran didn’t know the victims or recall the crime, and he cited a history of drug abuse including recent methamphetamine use, police said. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Moran was also sentenced to more than four years in prison after pleading guilty in 2001 to misconduct involving weapons. He was convicted in two 1989 burglaries as well.

During his recent stint in prison, Moran was found guilty of more than a dozen infractions, including four for drug manufacturing and possession, the Department of Corrections records show.

"He is a career criminal, a violent felony offender," Garcia said.


story continues below
story continues below

The priests were attacked Wednesday in the rectory of the Mother of Mercy Mission. Walker, 28, died of a gunshot wound and Terra was badly beaten. Terra was able to give Walker last rites after the assault.

The news of the arrest came just as a Mass was to be held for Walker at another church in Phoenix.

"We’re relieved that he’s not out there doing it again and we hope some good comes out of it for him," Walker’s stepsister, Sasha Keys, said of the arrest. She said nearly $42,000 in donations had poured in from around the country.

"It was incredible," she said. "I’m still getting letters in the mail with checks."

Police previously said Terra gave them a limited description of the suspect. Detectives said they were running forensic tests on evidence collected at the scene of the assault and from Walker’s vehicle, which was found abandoned several blocks from the church near the state Capitol.

Terra was moved out of a hospital intensive care unit Saturday and is expected to make a full recovery. The Rev. Carl Gismondi, a pastor visiting from San Diego, conducted Mass at the priests’ church Sunday and said he had visited his fellow clergyman at the hospital.

"He was in good spirits," Gismondi said after the service.

Walker was born in upstate New York, had 10 siblings and was drawn to the priesthood after attending traditional Latin Mass with his family in high school. He later joined the seminary, made good grades and enjoyed playing soccer, said the Rev. Joseph Lee, academic dean at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Nebraska.

Walker eventually joined a Catholic order that specializes in Latin Mass and became a priest in downtown Phoenix. He recently officiated a younger sibling’s wedding in Kansas — the last time he saw many relatives.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.