Murder at St. Michaels

by Free Speech on March 6, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

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Who Killed Father Kunz?

By Lou Holt

Father Kunz was murdered 11 years ago at St. Michaels in Dane, WI. The murder remains unsolved to this day.

Father Kunz was murdered 11 years ago at St. Michaels in Dane, WI. The murder remains unsolved to this day.

The Village of Dane, a quiet hamlet some 10 miles north of Madison, Wisconsin, welcomed March 1998 with eager anticipation. Winters in southern Wisconsin could be harsh and the hope of an early spring among area residents was almost universal. Yet, March 3rd, 1998 with its blustery winds and occasional snowflakes gave no hint of winter’s demise.

For Father Alfred Kunz, pastor of St. Michael’s Parish in the Village, the weather was of little concern as he went about his priestly duties, retiring to his room by early evening to prepare for the taping of “Our Catholic Family,” a religious talk show program based in Monroe, some 70 miles South of Dane. Leaving the rectory at 7:30P.M in the company of Lodi Priest Fr. Charles Fiore, the taping was completed by 9:00 P.M, and the two priests left Monroe shortly thereafter, arriving at St. Michaels a little before 10:00 PM.

Neither man had had time for dinner that night, and as Fr. Kunz walked away from the car, Fiore reminded him to “Get a piece of cheese or something, Al.” Kunz smiled and nodded his head, then turned away. What happened between that moment and 7:00 A.M. the next morning has remained a mystery for over eleven years.

Born in Dodgeville, Wisconsin on April 15th, 1930, Alfred Kunz heard his calling at an early age. One of three sons of a large Swiss immigrant family, Kunz had suffered a near-fatal appendicitis attack at age 10, and upon awakening from the anesthesia told his mother, “ I want to be a priest.” Remaining true to his childhood vision, Kunz enrolled at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio in 1944 and was schooled in the Catholic Faith for the next twelve years. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1956.

Father Kunz performing Mass at St. Michaels in Dane, WI

Father Kunz performing Mass at St. Michaels in Dane, WI

Returning to Wisconsin as Fr. Alfred Kunz, he gave his first solemn Mass on June 3, 1956, at St. Mary’s in Fennimore, the church and grade school he had attended as a child. Later serving as associate pastor for congregations in Waunakee, Cassville, and Monroe, Fr. Kunz arrived at St. Michaels in 1967, where he would minister to the parishioners of the Village of Dane for the next thirty-one years.

In addition to his priestly duties, Fr. Kunz provided other valued services to the Diocese of Madison. His in-depth knowledge of Canon Law soon led to his appointment as the Judicial Vicar for the Diocese, and he was enlisted as a member of the Catholic Marriage Tribunal where he dutifully upheld the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Serving amicably with then Bishop Cletus O’Donnell, whose polices and adherence to traditional Catholicism mirrored his own beliefs, Bishop O’Donnell’s death in 1992 would have a profound affect on Fr. Kunz, both personally and professionally.

With the appointment of Bishop William Bullock on April 13, 1993, disagreements between the new Bishop over the interpretation of Church law became commonplace, and within the year, Kunz had resigned as Judicial Vicar and was no longer a member of the Marriage Tribunal. Yet, despite his considerable differences with the head of the Madison Diocese, Kunz remained at St. Michaels Catholic Church, due, in large part to his status as a beloved priest within the Dane community.

A staunch defender of Catholic tradition, Fr. Kunz gave Mass in both English and Latin, and his abhorrence of sexual improprieties within the religious hierarchy was well known. By mid 1997, he had become actively involved in the investigation of sexual abuse complaints within the Catholic Church, including charges of sexual abuse of minors by priests within the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

And, although never confirmed by the Madison Diocese, Kunz had reportedly taken on the task of investigating several local priests and planned to report his findings to the Hierarchy on March 7, 1998. Sadly, that day would never arrive.

At 7:00 A.M. on the morning of March 4, 1998, a teacher arriving at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Dane found the body of Fr. Alfred Kunz laying in the hallway of the school near the door to his living quarter. Fr. Kunz had been stabbed and his throat had been cut with an edged weapon, which had severed the carotid artery, and he had died of blood loss. All of the doors to the school were locked, and there were no signs of forced entry. No weapon was found.

According to Kevin Hughes, investigating officer from Dane County Sheriff’s Office the killer was probably someone that the priest knew who was familiar with both the village and St. Michaels. “The attack was cowardly, unprovoked, and unexpected,” Hughes said.

The Village of Dane demanded answers.

(Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a three part series about the murder of Father Kunz. Please bookmark our site or subscribe via RSS to be automatically updated on the next installment.)

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lodi WI Info June 19, 2012 at 7:42 AM

Writer feared retaliation from the Catholic church she/he felt was involved in a cover-up at least.

2 sylvie June 5, 2012 at 4:57 PM

Suppose to be a three part series here? Where are the other 2 parts? Did the story get “killed”?

3 sylvie June 5, 2012 at 4:53 PM

A crazed killer would not likely have a key. Comes across as an “inside job”. The lack of mainstream media attention even enforces that angle, now doesn’t it?

4 Marie November 23, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Thank you for the excellent article. There is so much that is unsaid about this murder. However, one has to ask, “What would be the motive? Who benefits?” The faithful need answers, but it looks like this case has “gone cold”.

5 Mrs. Brummel March 17, 2009 at 9:46 AM

I’m glad that you haven’t forgotten. Maybe your occassional articles will serve as a reminder to continue the search for the perpetrator of this heinous act.

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