(St. Joseph News-Press) CONCEPTION, Mo. — A lone Missouri State Highway Patrol investigator, Sgt. David Merrill, is struggling to re-create the life of the formerly devout Catholic who went on a murdering rampage at Conception Abbey.
“The patrol and the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Department will continue to investigate the case until a motive has been found or all possible leads have been exhausted,” said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol.
With the assistance of his supervisor, Mr. Merrill is attempting to find any clues that will unravel the mystery of why 71-year-old Lloyd Jeffress killed two monks and wounded two others at the abbey on Monday, Mr. Lyon said.
Mr. Jeffress was estranged from his family, Mr. Lyon said, including a daughter, who hadn’t seen Mr. Jeffress for more than 40 years. The patrol also spoke to Mr. Jeffress’ brother, who hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years. Both said they remembered Mr. Jeffress as a devout Catholic when he was a young man. Mr. Jeffress also had an ex-wife, whom the patrol is still trying to locate.
The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Conception Abbey have no records indicating that Mr. Jeffress was a Catholic.
Timothy Stransky, the abbey’s development director, reviewed the abbey’s computerized list of staff, relatives, alumni and donors.
“We have no idea who this person is,” said Rebecca Summers, a spokeswoman for the diocese. “There appears to be no explanation for why this happened.”
Mr. Merrill wants to know where Mr. Jeffress lived as a young man, Mr. Lyon said. If he lived in another diocese, there is hope of finding evidence about his early life, Mr. Lyon said.
The two wounded monks who survived Monday’s shooting remained in the hospital Tuesday.
The Rev. Kenneth Reichert was shot in the abdomen, right hand and right leg. The 68-year-old priest was upgraded to fair condition Tuesday, said Lisa Luke, St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo. Fair condition indicates that a patient’s vital signs are stable and within normal limits, she said. He is conscious, Ms. Luke said.
The Rev. Norbert Schappler, 73, was shot in the groin and leg. At the abbey, he is in charge of the dining room and is the art director at the abbey print shop. Alan Van Zandt, a spokesman for Heartland Regional Medical Center, said late Tuesday that the Rev. Schappler remained in serious condition. This means the Rev. Schappler’s vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. The patient is acutely ill, Mr. Van Zandt said.
Abbot Gregory Polan visited both men on Tuesday afternoon.
The abbot’s hospital visits were one act among many by the monks aimed at returning to their way of peace.
For instance, a Maryville, Mo., company cleaned the basilica Tuesday morning.
The monks celebrated Mass and also gathered in the monastery to talk about the needs of others who would be coming to the abbey in the next few days, Mr. Madden said. As part of the abbey’s healing, the monks on Tuesday night blessed the first floor of the monastery and dispensed holy water at the site of each murder, Mr. Madden said.
Slayings at monastery prompt deep look into 71-year-old shooter’s life, final acts
June 12, 2002
By MARSHALL WHITE
St. Joseph News-Press