June 14, 2002


Diocese paper tracks divorce

More details about the mysterious life of the Conception Abbey shooter are coming to light days after he killed two monks and wounded two others before he killed himself.

According to Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph records, Lloyd Jeffress was baptized at the Grand Avenue Methodist Church in Kansas City in 1953. He married Della Steward of Richmond, Mo., at the Roanoke Baptist Church in Kansas City in 1954, said Albert de Zutter, editor of The Catholic Key diocese newspaper.

Mr. Jeffress and his wife divorced in 1959.

“In 1977, he became Catholic and petitioned the Church for an annulment of his marriage so he would be free to remarry in the Catholic Church,” Mr. de Zutter said. “The annulment was granted in 1979.”

Law-enforcement officials have said a possible motive for the crimes Mr. Jeffress committed was because he harbored resentment toward the Catholic religion after the divorce. Investigators came to consider this possibility through discussions with Mr. Jeffress’ estranged family members and his ex-wife.

Mr. de Zutter said the motive seems far-fetched by looking at church records.

Sgt. Sheldon Lyon of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said there is more to Mr. Jeffress’ past involvement with the Catholic Church than what is on the record.

He said both Mr. Jeffress and Ms. Steward attended classes to become Catholic before their wedding, but they never finished because Ms. Steward didn’t want to continue.

However, Mr. de Zutter said, she became a member of the Catholic religion in 1957 at St. James Church in Kansas City, two years before the divorce in 1959.

Mr. Lyon said that although Mr. Jeffress didn’t become an official member of the church until 1977, he was still active in the religion.

While the investigation continued, the two monks who were wounded but survived Monday’s shooting remained hospitalized.

The Rev. Kenneth Reichert, 68, remained in fair condition at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo.

The Rev. Norbert Schappler, 73, was in fair condition at Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph.

Diocese paper tracks divorce
St. Joseph News-Press
Kristi Bailey
June 14, 2002