June 13, 2002


Abbey Gunman’s Divorce Investigated

CONCEPTION, Mo. — The man who killed two monks and wounded two others at a Roman Catholic abbey was unhappy about how the church treated him after he divorced his wife, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

Investigators were pursing Lloyd Jeffress’ bitterness toward the church as a potential motive in the shooting rampage Monday at Conception Abbey. Jeffress, 71, killed himself afterward.

Police planned to view Jeffress’ annulment papers from 1979, 20 years after his divorce, to learn more about Jeffress’ complaints.

“We’re hoping some documents from the church will shed some light on this,” said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon of the highway patrol.

A source said that Jeffress’ daughter and brother indicated Jeffress told them he was upset by the way he was treated by the church after the breakup of his five-year marriage with Della Steward. Jeffress didn’t utter a word Monday morning as he walked the monastery halls, killing Brother Damian Larson and the Rev. Phillip Schuster. Two other monks were shot before Jeffress then shot himself in the mouth.

The wounded monks were expected to recover.

Jeffress and Steward were married Nov. 24, 1954, according to the Missouri Bureau of Vital Records, and were granted a divorce on May 11, 1959.

The Dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph said the couple was granted an annulment by the church in 1979. Details of the couple’s relationship are kept private, spokeswoman Rebecca Summers said.

Lyon said Wednesday that Steward was cooperating with investigators, although he declined to elaborate.

Albany Times Union (Albany, NY)
June 13, 2002