By Matt C. Abbott
On this 20th anniversary year of the unsolved murder of Fr. Alfred Kunz, a case I've been following and writing about for a long time, I'd like to include some information about the investigation that I did not include in previous articles on the case. I'm also seeking the assistance of Church Militant readers on a particular aspect of the case, which you will see below.
Father Kunz was a priest and canon law expert in the diocese of Madison, Wisconsin. He was known for celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass as the longtime pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church, located in rural Dane. He had a good reputation among many orthodox, traditional Catholics and was known to be staunchly pro-life.
In the mid-to-late-1990s, Fr. Kunz was an adviser to Illinois Catholic activist Stephen Brady, founder of Roman Catholic Faithful. Brady was instrumental in exposing clergy corruption in the diocese of Springfield, Illinois, including that of the late Bp. Daniel Ryan, who resigned in disgrace in 1999. In 2000, Brady exposed a network of active homosexuals in the priesthood and hierarchy worldwide but was still not taken seriously by the mainstream media or the Catholic establishment.
As we know, the clergy abuse scandal first erupted in the mainstream media in 2002. After several years of being "retired" from exposing clergy corruption, even after receiving death threats, Mr. Brady and RCF are back in action this year.
On the morning of March 4, 1998, Fr. Kunz was found brutally murdered, his throat slit, in the hallway of the school attached to his parish. There have been various theories put forth as to the killer's motive, some more plausible than others. One theory, promoted by the late author Malachi Martin, is that Satanists did it. The sheriff's office seemed to dismiss that theory early on in the investigation.
Another theory is that the murder might be related to Fr. Kunz's alleged affairs with several women at the parish. I've never come across any of these women, but the sheriff's office has insisted that the affairs did occur and are "facts" of the case. If anyone has firsthand knowledge of one or more of these alleged relationships, please email me at email@example.com. I will not publicize your name or experience.
If you prefer, you can set up a temporary, anonymous and free email account to send me information (but please don't delete the account right after you send me the information; wait until I respond at least once). Just make sure to include enough detail so I can be reasonably certain you're being truthful. Assuming these women actually exist and are still living, I'd like to see if one or more of them will contact me.
Yet another theory involves financial irregularities that were discovered to have occurred at the parish in the weeks prior to Fr. Kunz's murder. The sheriff's office hasn't publicly released specific details of the irregularities, other than to say that large amounts of money had been moved between parish accounts and some sizable checks were cut.
For a number of years, the most prominent theory was that the male teacher who discovered Fr. Kunz's body committed the murder. The teacher, who had a falling-out with Fr. Kunz over a romantic relationship he was having with a female teacher at the school (Fr. Kunz did not approve of his teachers being romantically involved with each other), also had a close relationship with another priest, Fr. Charles Fiore, who was a good friend of Fr. Kunz.
In fact, Fr. Fiore reportedly was the last person to see Fr. Kunz alive, save for the killer. A source informed me that provocative photos of the teacher were found by investigators at the home of Fr. Fiore after Fr. Fiore died of natural causes in 2003.
The teacher, who lived with Fr. Fiore in the months after the murder, was remembered in Fr. Fiore's will to the tune of several thousand dollars (he's not related to Fr. Fiore). The sheriff's office this year declared in its social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter that the teacher, who married after Fr. Kunz's murder but whose wife subsequently died of an undiagnosed heart condition, has been cleared.
Despite this, I know of two reputable journalists who were told by the sheriff earlier this year that the teacher was still considered a person of interest. After nearly 20 years, the teacher went from being a person of interest or suspect to apparently being cleared in the span of a few months only this year — something I find odd. He resides in another state and has a different career. He's never spoken publicly on the case. It's unclear if the sheriff's office ever considered Fr. Fiore a person of interest, but they reportedly believe he was not entirely forthcoming with investigators.
The sheriff's office has also asserted that the principal of St. Michael School at the time of Fr. Kunz's murder, Maureen O'Leary, has been uncooperative and even told investigators to close the case and mark it unsolved. In a fairly recent interview with Catholic writer Joseph M. Hanneman, she denied being uncooperative, insisting that she talked with investigators on several occasions.
The sheriff's office currently has multiple persons of interest, at least two of whom are deceased — they reportedly committed suicide on different dates — and had criminal records. I asked, by way of email, sheriff's office spokeswoman Elise Schaffer the following questions earlier this year:
Do the persons of interest know each other, and could they be collectively covering up the crime?
She responded, "Our detectives say the persons of interest do not generally move in the same circles."
Is it possible that any of the persons of interest might kill again, I asked.
"Anyone's guess. Anything is possible," she responded.
Other questions of mine pertaining to the investigation have not been answered by the sheriff's office.
In August 2018, the aforementioned Hanneman had published a three-part series of articles on the Fr. Kunz case (contributed to by me) at Catholic World Report.
Anyone with information on Fr. Kunz's murder should contact the Dane County Sheriff's Office at (608) 284-6900, or firstname.lastname@example.org.