911 tape released in fatal church attack

Jun 13, 2014, 4:40 PM | Updated: 4:45 pm
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LISTEN: 911 Call from Mother of Mercy MIssion homicide

PHOENIX — Police released tape of the 911 call made by the Rev. Joseph Terra after he was badly beaten and his colleague was killed at a Phoenix church.

The tape begins with Terra reporting the assault to a 911 operator. He is clearly short of breath and dazed after being beaten by an unknown assailant.

As the conversation continues, Terra is instructed to perform CPR on the Rev. Kenneth Walker, who was not breathing at the time of the call.

The tape ends shortly after.

Police are investigating the attack that killed Walker and left Terra in critical condition, thought they have been stymied by a lack of usable surveillance video.

Still, investigators have been able to recover forensic evidence from the dead priest’s car and the crime scene that they are hopeful will lead them to a suspect. And they are going door-to-door in the neighborhood looking for witnesses who might have seen something.

The investigation is playing out as parishioners are mourning the loss of Walker, 28, and praying for the recovery of Terra, 56, who was so badly beaten that police were worried he wouldn’t survive the night. He remained in critical but stable condition.

Based on an interview with Terra, police said they believe the suspect is a white male in his 40s but acknowledge it was a “limited description.”

“Unfortunately because of the severity of his injuries, he was only able to provide limited information about one particular suspect,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Steve Martos said.

Detectives collected surveillance video from buildings in the area, including government facilities near the state Capitol, but they found nothing usable at this point because the cameras weren’t pointed in the direction of the church.

Police are still unsure if there was only one suspect or whether robbery was the motive in the attack at the Mother of Mercy Mission, Martos said. He declined to say whether there was forced entry.

They have been able to rule out several theories, including speculation of a dispute between the priests.

“There’s nothing to indicate that this is priest-on-priest or Father Terra getting into some argument or discussion with Father Walker,” Martos said. “We don’t believe that the evidence that we have come across points in that direction at all.”

A Kansas church is currently accepting prayers, letters, memorials and donations for Walker’s family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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911 tape released in fatal church attack