Church Officials Look for Any Connection with Man who Shot 4
by Lois Romano, Washington Post
CONCEPTION, Mo. - Investigators have not established a motive for why
71-year-old Lloyd Jeffress opened fire at a Catholic monastery here in rural
northwest Missouri, killing two monks and injuring two others before turning
the gun on himself in a church.
Abbot Gregory Polan, the head of Conception Abbey, said the abbey had
scoured records of former employees, alumni and donors, and could find no
evidence that Jeffress had any association with the Benedictine monastery.
He said abbey officials are looking at the guest records of the thousands
visitors who have come on pilgrimages or retreats.
"So far, we have absolutely no connection to this man," Polan said. "You
see here a man who really must have had serious mental, emotional and
spiritual problems -- who in some ways cannot be held responsible."
"It appears to be tragically random," said Rebecca Summers, a spokeswoman
for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
Officials at the abbey and the seminary college connected to it said
have not found a link between Jeffress and the sex scandal that has rocked
the Catholic Church, but they left open the possibility of one. The abbey's
seminary has trained the majority of the priests in its diocese of Kansas
City-St. Joseph, as well as many others in the neighboring Archdiocese of
The abbey and seminary have been only indirectly connected to the
scandal. Christopher Dixon, a former student and now former priest, accused
former bishop Anthony J. O'Connell and the Rev. John H. Fischer, another
Abbey alumnus, of molesting him in Hannibal, Mo., in the 1970s. O'Connell,
who served on the abbey's board of regents for years, resigned as bishop
Palm Beach in March after a half-dozen additional victims came forward.
Authorities continued to talk to Jeffress's family and neighbors at his
home in Kearney, Mo., a 2 1/2-hour drive south from here, in an effort to
establish a motive.
Jeffress appeared to be a longtime Methodist, according to Brad Reed,
pastor of First United Methodist Church in Kearney, where Jeffress had been
attending services for the past month.
"One of his neighbors invited him to worship with us, and he had
indicated to her that he had belonged to another church a number of years
ago, dating back to his youth," Reed said today. "He came the last four
five Sundays. He was very quiet, spoke little. We just exchanged greetings.
I tried to make him feel welcomed."
Police on Monday searched Jeffress's home at a housing complex for the
elderly but found no note either there, at the scene, or in the green sedan
he had driven to the monastery. Jeffress had no prior criminal record,
Madden said the authorities told him that Jeffress had been estranged
from his brother, an ex-wife and a child. Neighbors at his apartment complex
said he stayed to himself.
The abbey is on a 30-acre campus 25 miles from a major road, and it
includes the Conception Seminary College and the Basilica of the Immaculate
Conception. Since a $9 million renovation of the basilica in 1999, 30,000
people have visited the abbey, said Polan. About 65 monks, including priests
and religious brothers, live at the abbey, but only about 30 were there
day of the shooting.
Today the bells of the abbey's basilica tolled at 8:40 a.m., when it
believed Jeffress started shooting.
Jeffress entered the monastery through a side door in the basilica with
an MAK-90 assault rifle and a .22-caliber rifle, and opened fire on anyone
he saw. He killed Brother Damian Larson first, and then shot the Rev.
Norbert Schappler and the Rev. Kenneth Reichert when they poked their heads
out of the refectory to investigate the commotion. Both survived. He then
went down the hall and shot and killed the Rev. Philip Schuster, who was
abbey's official front-door greeter. By this time, Polan had heard the shots
and called 911.
Police searched the grounds for nearly 2 1/2 hours before finding
Jeffress. After his rampage, he slipped back into the church unnoticed and,
sitting in the second to last pew, shot himself with the .22-caliber