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New DNA Evidence Being Examined In Kunz Slaying

Published On: Feb 28 2012 09:45:08 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 29 2012 09:48:02 AM CST

The slaying of the Rev. Alfred Kunz is a case that has stumped investigators for nearly a decade and a half, but new DNA evidence may finally lead to a break in the case.

But even though a good deal of time has passed, the Dane County Sheriff's Office said the Kunz homicide case is still a very open investigation. Investigators said there's a fresh set of eyes on the case -- and new DNA evidence -- which could finally bring a killer to justice.

It was March 4, 1998, when the slaying of Kunz rocked the small community of Dane. The priest, who called St. Michael's home for 31 years, was found slain in the school's main hallway with his throat slashed. Investigators said he bled to death. His killer has never been found.

"People called in about burglaries. People called in about cults. People called in about father having relationships with certain people," said Mary Butler, a detective with the Dane County Sheriff's Office. "When I started looking at this case, there are just several, several different motives that could have been the cause of his death."

Butler has just taken over the nearly 14-year-old homicide case, the most expensive case in county history. About 41 binders contain years and years of reports, with motives, questions and possible suspects.

"So far, evidence has not pointed at one suspect," retiring detective Linda Pederson-Honer said.

Pederson-Honer is helping with the transition as Butler takes over the investigation. Pederson-Honer was at the scene the morning of the killing, and she has spent thousands of hours searching for answers.

"There are thousands of people who have been interviewed, all over the country," Pederson-Honer said. "We have more than 11,000 pages of reports. It's hard to understand how much time has really gone into this case."

A decade and a half later, the work continues. A new DNA evidence is being submitted to the State Crime Lab for analysis, and old evidence is also being re-examined with technology that didn't exist 14 years ago. Touch DNA is a part of the analysis -- invisible DNA that could exist on the surface of evidence, WISC-TV reported.

As the DNA testing is under way, more details are coming to light about the brutal crime that took place.

"The last we know (of the) Father to be alive was when he was on the phone at 10:23 p.m. on March 3 -- he's found at 7 a.m. on March 4," Butler said. "We believe the death occurred closer to the 10:30 (p.m.) time frame."

The Dane County Sheriff's Office is also revealing, for the first time, that there were signs of forced entry to the school. Investigators said a door appeared to have been forced open. But detectives said it was hard to determine exactly when the damage to the door took place, so a burglary motive could never be confirmed.

While sheriff's office officials said they hope to have the case solved soon, the church prays for the same.

Monsignor Kevin Holmes was called to the hurting St. Michael's parish 10 weeks after Kunz was slain. He spent four years there, helping the community heal. He said it's time for the killer to come forward.

"For the sake of justice, it would be a wonderful thing for the diocese, for the clergy, for the people of St. Michael's in Dane, too, for justice to be done in this case," Holmes said.

Homes shares the same plea as Dane County detectives. On behalf of the Catholic Church, he said he is asking anyone with information to come forward.

"Justice ought to be done in this case," he said.

"It's been 14 years," Butler said. "Father Kunz deserves justice. His family, the Catholic Church deserves justice."

Sheriff's officials said they are looking for anyone with information to contact them.

They said the person who killed Kunz was likely noticeably injured -- either with cuts or with bruising -- and detectives said they have no reason to believe the killer is no longer in the area.

Detectives also said they want to hear from those who have previously called in with tips, within the last 10 years.

Authorities said that anyone with information on the case is urged to call the Dane County Sheriff's Office at 608-284-6900.