Phoenix still looking for clues in priest attack

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm •  Published: June 13, 2014
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PHOENIX (AP) — Police say the investigation into a deadly priest shooting at a Roman Catholic church in Phoenix has been stymied by a lack of usable surveillance video and a vague account of the attack by a second severely injured clergyman.

Still, investigators have been able to recover forensic evidence from the dead priest's car and the crime scene that they are hopeful will lead them to a suspect. And they are going door to door in the neighborhood looking for witnesses who might have seen something.

The investigation is playing out as parishioners are mourning the loss of the Rev. Kenneth Walker, 28, and praying for the recovery of the Rev. Joseph Terra, 56, who was so badly beaten in the Wednesday night attack in the rectory of their church that police were worried he wouldn't survive the night. He remained in critical but stable condition.

Police said Terra told them the next day the suspect was a white male in his 40s, but they acknowledge it was a "limited description."

"Unfortunately because of the severity of his injuries, he was only able to provide limited information about one particular suspect," Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos said.

In a recording of the 911 call released by police Friday, Terra can be heard breathing heavily and pausing as the dispatcher asked him what happened.

"We have been broke into ... an assault," Terra said.

"Did he hit you on the head?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yeah, I think he did," Terra replied. "My assistant priest here is ... uh ... has been beaten."

"Is he breathing?" the dispatcher asked.

"No, no he's not," Terra said as he is then instructed how to perform CPR.

He was unable at the time to provide a description of who attacked him and fatally shot Walker.

"You have no description at all?" the dispatcher asked.

"No," Terra replied.

Police and paramedics soon arrived on the scene, and Terra "pretty much just shut down then, went into survival mode," Martos said Friday.

He said detectives weren't suspicious that Terra couldn't describe his attacker at the time, but later was able to provide a limited description.

"That's not uncommon. You're talking about an individual who was just severely attacked," Martos said, adding that authorities didn't think he would survive. "Especially with the vicious assault that he had just endured."

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