Suspect in murder of priest and Catholic church robbery arrested

Gary Michael Moran is accused of killing an associate pastor and assaulting another priest.

Published 17 June 2014  |  
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
Gary Michael Moran

A suspect was arrested Monday in the case of a priest murdered last week in Phoenix.

Gary Michael Moran has been charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, and other charges following an attack on June 11 at Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission. Associate Pastor Kenneth Walker was shot and killed, and Pastor Joseph Terra was badly beaten.

Father Terra, 56, called 911 around 9 p.m. and reported a burglary. When authorities responded to the church, near 16th Ave. and Monroe St., they found Terra assaulted and Father Walker, 28, dead. A 2003 Mazda Tribute stolen from the church and sought in connection with the attack was found four blocks from the crime scene.

The priests were attacked near their living quarters at Mother of Mercy.

Moran, 54, was released from prison in April after serving eight years for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, and other charges. Police say forensic evidence connects him to the June 11 crime.

Rev. Walker's step-sister, Sasha Keys, said she is grateful that Moran is off the streets.

"We're relieved that he's not out there doing it again and we hope some good comes out of it for him," she told the Associated Press.

Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department said a crime against priests, and at a church, is almost unimaginable.

(Photo: JCEBlogspot)

"That says a lot, when you're talking about individuals who come into a location like this, commit a crime like this, against individuals or victims like this," he told The Republic. "One can only imagine what they are likely to do."

Rev. Terra has been moved out of the intensive care unit, and is reportedly in good spirits. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement expressing sadness regarding the tragic incident. They also asked that people pray for the clergymen, who they say belonged to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

"We ask that people offer prayers for both priests, the religious community, their families and the parish," they said in a statement.

"Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen."

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