Two Catholics priests are connected by a violent and unexpected fate.
On the evening of August 7, 1982, a call was placed to the rectory of the St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The caller needed someone to administer last rites. Father Patrick Gerard was unable to leave the rectory and asked the caller to telephone again in fifteen minutes. Exactly fifteen minutes later, the telephone rang again. This time, Father Renaldo Rivera took the call. The caller was insistent—he wanted a priest to come immediately to administer the last rites. The man said his name was Michael Carmello. According to Lieutenant Gilbert Ulibarri of the Santa Fe Police Department, Carmello was calling from a rest stop near Waldo, New Mexico:
Three days after he vanished, Father Rivera’s body was found on a deserted road three miles from the rest stop. At Father Rivera’s funeral, the entire city mourned. Ordained Catholic priests vow to become servants of God and servants of their community. Their door is always open. But, as was the case in New Mexico, that very openness can also be exploited—especially by someone with diabolical intentions.
The night of the murder, the man calling himself Carmello was waiting for Father Rivera at the rest stop in a blue pick up truck. Lieutenant Ulibarri has developed a theory of what happened next:
Lieutenant Ulibarri believed the killers took Father Rivera to a remote desert area:
According to Lieutenant Ulibarri, the killers returned to the rest stop after the crime to remove Father Rivera’s car:
Lieutenant Ulibarri had few clues and after a nationwide check, he found no suspects named Michael Carmello:
Two years later, on August 8, 1984, in Ronan, Montana, another priest mysteriously disappeared. Father John Kerrigan was new to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Ronan. He had only been there four days before he too vanished. At 11 PM on the night he disappeared, Father John Kerrigan went to a bakery across the street from the church to chat with his parishioners. After a few minutes, he was returning home to go to bed. But he was never seen again. According to Detective Sergeant Bruce Phillips of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the next day a passerby discovered a pile of bloody clothes at a turnout along the highway that circles nearby Flathead Lake:
A week later, Detective Sergeant Phillips found Father Kerrigan’s car five miles from the area where his clothes had been discovered:
Detective Sergeant Phillips also found Kerrigan’s wallet, which contained more than a thousand dollars in cash:
When Lieutenant Ulibarri learned of Father Kerrigan’s disappearance, he flew to Ronan to investigate the similarities between the two cases:
There are other similarities also. Both victims’ cars were driven away from the crime scene and both were wiped clean of all fingerprints and evidence. A metal coat hanger was found near Father Kerrigan’s clothes, and there was evidence a coat hanger was used in Father Rivera’s murder. In both cases, robbery was not a motive, and perhaps most significantly, both priests belonged to the select Order of Franciscans.