Fr. Alfred Kunz was a 67-year-old parish priest at St. Michael’s church in the rural town of Dane, Wisconsin.
He recorded radio shows and was known for his love of the traditional Latin Mass, serving as a parish priest for 31 years. He often cooked cod at the local fish fries on Friday nights in an effort to raise money for the parish school.
On March 4, 1998, Fr. Kunz was found dead in a pool of blood with a slit across his throat inside St. Michael’s school.
The killer was never found.
In an effort to revive Fr. Kunz’s cold case 20 years later, the local police department is launching a social media campaign to see if there is any new information on who killed the priest.
“On the 20th anniversary, we thought we would start releasing information to the public that has not been publicly released,” said David J. Mahoney, a Dane County Sheriff, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“I’m at a position in this case now, that if we haven’t solved it in 20 years, we need to do something different,” Mahoney continued.
Theories behind the murder abound, ranging from an attempt to prevent the priest from exposing sexual abuse to the work of a Satanic temple active near the parish. Fr. Kunz was reported to have a harsh, controlling personality, and police officials had told reporters that there were suggestions of financial and sexual impropriety in connection with the priest.
The social media campaign includes posts from the police department with the hashtag #whokilledfatherkunz. The posts include information about the case, such as the murder weapon, which was never found, and various conversations that Fr. Kunz had in the last days of his life.
In addition to the campaign, Kunz’s cold case will be featured on season three of the podcast “Unsolved,” which is currently under production.
William Yallaly, chancellor of the Diocese of Madison, told CNA that the sheriff's office initiated the investigation, but the diocese is in full support.
He noted that Bishop Robert Morlino, who currently heads the diocese, arrived several years after the death of Fr. Kunz, but said that the bishop has affirmed the sheriff in undertaking the campaign to re-open the case.
“We want the truth to come out, whatever it is,” Yallaly said.
Regarding reports of possible motives, he noted, “We have heard rumors, gossip, and third party accusations, but have not received any concrete accusations of romantic, sexual, or financial improprieties.”
He encouraged the faithful to “pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. Kunz.”
Over the weekend a Requiem Mass was celebrated in honor of Fr. Kunz, marking the twentieth anniversary of his death.
“He was a very holy man,” said Fr. Richard Heilman of St. Mary’s parish.
Although two decades have passed since his death, Mahoney hopes that the killer will come forward with a guilty conscience, or a perhaps a family member of the killer will offer new information.
In the initial investigation of the murder, the sheriff said, investigators may have focused too narrowly on one suspect, although there were several other people of interest.
However, Mahoney is hopeful that the new campaign could give them the second wind they need to close the case.
“We’re at the 10-yard line, but we’re pitted against a pretty strong defense and we need a good Aaron Rodgers to get us across the goal line.”