Matt C. Abbott
March 4, 2021 will be the 23rd anniversary of the still-unsolved homicide of Father Alfred Kunz, a priest and canon law expert of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.
Kunz was known for celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Latin) as well as in the Ordinary Form (vernacular) as the longtime pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, located in the small rural village of Dane. He had a good reputation among many – but certainly not all – Catholics and was known to be staunchly pro-life. He was also involved in exorcisms from time to time, albeit not in an official capacity.
On the morning of March 4, 1998, Kunz’s body was found in a large pool of blood in the hallway of the parish school. His throat had been slashed and he was left to bleed out.
There have been various theories put forth as to the killer's motive, some more plausible than others. Burglary is one theory. Jealousy or betrayal is another. A satanic cult is another. Kunz’s personal investigations into clergy corruption – he was an adviser to Catholic activist Stephen Brady, founder of The Roman Catholic Faithful – is yet another.
For several years, at least one detective, Kevin Hughes, now retired, believed the school teacher who discovered Kunz's body, Brian J. Jackson, committed the murder. Jackson, then in his mid-20s, reportedly had a strained relationship with Kunz in the weeks leading up to the murder and was interviewed by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office on multiple occasions (see here, here and here). However, according to an email sent by the sheriff’s office to this writer in 2018, “Brian Jackson is no longer the primary target of the investigation.”
When approached at his home by a reporter from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — whose investigative journalist, Gina Barton, did a series of podcasts and articles on the case in 2019 that included an interview with this writer — Jackson professed his innocence but politely declined to be interviewed in detail by the media outlet.
Jackson did have a seemingly close friendship with another Wisconsin-based priest, Father Charles Fiore, who was a good friend of Kunz and Catholic author Malachi Martin, who died in 1999. Fiore, the last known person to see Kunz alive, died in 2003 of natural causes. (Jackson was remembered in Fiore’s will and was left $10,000.)
The sheriff's office has also stated that the principal of St. Michael School at the time of Kunz's murder, Maureen (O'Leary) Schultheis, was uncooperative and even told investigators to close the case and mark it unsolved. In a 2018 interview with Catholic writer Joseph M. Hanneman for Catholic World Report, Schultheis denied being uncooperative, insisting “she spent countless hours meeting with investigators.”
In 2006, this writer reported that a deceased rape suspect, Joseph Donald Cavanaugh, might have been the killer. Hanneman reported in 2019 that Cavanaugh has been ruled out as a suspect.
The satanic cult theory was espoused by Malachi Martin.
Hanneman wrote in 2018:
The theory recently espoused by a Wikipedia vandal that Kunz may have molested one of the children at the parish school was refuted by Kerry Porter of the Dane County Sheriff's Office in 2019, who wrote in an email to this writer that “there is no evidence to support the claim made concerning molestation.”
And Brent M. King, director of communications for the diocese, wrote in a Feb. 25, 2021 email to this writer:
Click here to read some fairly recent comments on the Kunz case by Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Bishops Donald Hying, Joseph Perry, Robert Barron, Richard Stika, and Father James Martin.
Click here to read an edifying Kunz-related reflection by Father Richard Heilman of the Diocese of Madison.© Matt C. Abbott
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