Skip to content

Did hanged rapist murder Fr. Alfred Kunz?

By Matt Abbott
Op/Ed
Catholic Online

Some readers know I've been following - and have written about - the unsolved 1998 murder of Father Alfred Kunz, a canon lawyer and priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wis.

I recently received the following (edited) e-mail from John Cavanaugh, a retired Dane County deputy:

"I know a person with a very violent background was in the area on the day of the [Father Kunz] murder. It's one of those 'very, very long stories'. This person is now deceased. His biological father tells me that he'd had contact with Father Kunz, that he'd asked him for money and was refused, so he 'had to rough him up'. This was the same terminology he used when he related another incident to his father: that he'd asked his grandfather for money, was refused and had to 'rough him up'.

"This particular incident took place about eight years prior to Fr. Kunz's demise. The perpetrator was my nephew, the grandfather was my father. He nearly died as a result of his injuries.

"My nephew had a history of violence toward women. He was incarcerated pending trial on charges of assault, kidnapping and more when he committed suicide. Previously he'd served time in state prison for assaulting another woman.

"Last year, I found out the nephew made the Father Kunz-related 'confession' to his dad and, once again, I notified the sheriff's office. This time they at least followed up a bit, contacting the dad. They told me what he'd been told by the nephew couldn't be construed as a confession, or words to that effect. I waited for many weeks to see how it would play out.

"It didn't play out; it petered out. They seem content to ignore it. So I called my ex-brother-in-law (the biological father of the nephew) at which time he related the 'confession' story to me. I recorded the conversation. I notified the sheriff's office, again, and provided them with a copy of the recording. They told me they'd be in touch.

"That's been almost four months ago. I have contacted the FBI and the Wisconsin Department of Justice and have been told, by both, that the Dane County Sheriff's Office is the agency handling the matter and to refer any information to them. I think they're waiting for me to 'fade away.'

"That's not going to happen.

"For what it's worth, I'm a retired Dane County deputy. Personality clashes with many who are 'in power' in the sheriff's office today could very well be one reason for their perceived failure to act. You'll just have to trust me on that one. And, I'm convinced they are in no hurry to admit that perhaps they should have followed up on this information years ago."

John Cavanaugh's nephew was Joseph Cavanaugh, who had a history of violence and, possibly, mental illness.

From an August 7, 2002 article in the La Crosse Tribune, by Dan Springer:

"A La Crosse man accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and robbing his former girlfriend died in a La Crosse hospital Tuesday morning after he was found hanging in his La Crosse County Jail cell.

"La Crosse County Sheriff Mike Weissenberger said Joseph Cavanaugh, 43, was rushed to Gundersen Lutheran Hospital after he was found unresponsive Tuesday morning...."

In a subsequent (edited) e-mail, John Cavanaugh stated the following:

"I'd suspected Joe was responsible for the attack on my father since day one. This incident occurred in 1990. My dad would, when asked, always deny Joe's involvement. I assume that was to protect not Joe, but me. Or perhaps both of us. Dad claimed to have no memory of the attack.

"As further background, he was confined to a wheelchair. Meals on Wheels volunteer found him around noon lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen area of his apartment. He barely made it to the ER, where several deep lacerations were found on the top of his head. Recovery was very long, due mainly to massive blood loss. The EMTs originally thought he'd merely fallen out of his chair.

"After initial exam at the ER, I called the Middleton Police Department to report an assault. Convinced of Joe's complicity, I told relatives in area to be very wary should Joe ever darken their door.

"Fast forward to 1998. A cousin called to tell me (because of the above, earlier 'warning') that Joe had been to her house either that day or the day before, ostensibly to see her Mom, who was on her deathbed. He'd never visited before. This would be in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin -- a very short hop from Dane. I can't remember if she let him in or not, but he left without incident, either way.

"He also stopped in the same town to see his sister who lived in Prairie du Sac at the time. She describes him as being 'very anxious - this would have been the morning Fr. Kunz's body was found. I called the sheriff's office immediately, trying hard to emphasize how dangerous I believed Joe to be. The detective assigned to follow-up, as far as I know, did not make personal contact with Joe in regard to this.

"I again contacted the sheriff's office and asked the Lieutenant in charge to reassign that portion of the case. No luck. I'd known the particular detective who was assigned and had absolutely no respect for her, either personally or professionally. Another story...

"Joe's wife at the time says Joe received a call from the police and became very angry. After some time, he handed her the phone and told her to say he was home at the time of the murder. She says she would have said anything he told her to say, but won't come right out and say she lied, claiming time has 'blurred' it all. She also says he was in the habit of carrying a knife, or having one with him, almost constantly. A filet knife, I believe.

"Fast forward again to April, 2002, and Joe is in jail in La Crosse for assault, etc. (He'd served time in prison earlier for assault.) When I found out about him being in jail, I once again called the sheriff's office. I talked to Kevin Hughes, whom I've known since the 70s, and told him there would never be a better time to lean on Joe about Father Kunz.

"He emailed a reply that he was 'looking at' someone else quite closely, but 'might' drive up to La Crosse to see Joe.

"August 2002. Joe's sister supposedly learns from her biological father that Joe stopped at his residence the day my Dad was assaulted and told him he'd 'had to rough him up.' I learn of this from Joe's brother, John, who lives in the La Crosse area. I think either Joe's brother or sister told Joe that now I know for sure of his involvement with Dad's assault. He hangs himself in the jail. Coincidence? I think not.

"Spring 2005. I got a call from my sister (mother of Joe and his two siblings) saying that their dad had contacted the daughter telling her Joe had told him of 'having to rough up' Father Kunz. I really blew up.

"I once again contacted the sheriff's office -- not in a very good mood. I finally got in touch with a Lieutenant of detectives who agreed to assign someone other than Kevin Hughes to follow up. As far as I know, these detectives made contact with Joe's father and widow, in addition to his brother. Whatever they were told by Joe's father caused them to deem that what he'd heard was 'not a confession.'

"I'm not buying any of this, but have little choice other than to let them run with the ball. When nothing came of all this by fall I decided to call the dad myself. (He and my sister married in '59, had three kids, divorced. The kids were taken away by Richland County court and custody was awarded to my dad's brother and his wife. They later adopted all three of the kids and raised them.)

"I'd not spoken with him since the '60s. He confirmed he'd told his daughter about the 'confession' regarding my dad in 2002, and the confession regarding Father Kunz in 2005. I once again reported all this to the sheriff's office."

John concludes:

"I think Joe is responsible for the crime, as does his mother, his sister and brother."

Other sources familiar with the Father Kunz homicide case say the prime suspect was, and perhaps still is, the (former) teacher at St. Michael's School who found the priest's body. The teacher, who has never been arrested and charged, reportedly had a falling-out with Father Kunz.

Related links:

http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1696

http://www.catholiccitizens.org/press/contentview.asp?c=8395

Contact

Matt Abbott
http://www.catholic.org IL, US
Matt Abbott - Author,

Email

mattcabbott@hotmail.com

Keywords

Catholic, Abbott

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.