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Bishop O'Connell homicide suspect is housekeeper's husband

Bishop O'Connell homicide suspect is housekeeper's husband

The man arrested for killing auxiliary bishop David O'Connell was the husband of the bishop's housekeeper, Sheriff Robert Luna told a press conference Monday afternoon.

At the same press conference, LA's Archbishop Jose Gomez said that O'Connell was a good priest, and would be deeply missed.

O'Connell was killed Feb. 18 in his home, in the suburban community of Hacienda Heights, east of Los Angeles.

At his Feb. 20 press conference, Sheriff Luna announced that a suspect in the killing, Carlos Medina of Torrance, California, was arrested Monday morning. Medina, 65, is the husband of O'Connell's housekeeper, Luna said, and had himself worked at the bishop's home.

In his remarks, the sheriff said a deacon had gone to the bishop's house Saturday morning to check on O'Connell after the bishop missed a meeting. The deacon discovered that O'Connell was not breathing, and called 911.

When police and paramedics came to the bishop's house, they discovered that O'Connell had suffered "at least" one gunshot wound "in the upper torso, while in the bedroom of his residence."

Nevertheless, coroners did not determine that the O'Connell's cause of death was homicide until Sunday morning. Luna did not explain why it took nearly 24 hours to make that determination.

Luna said that Medina was arrested after surveillance footage showed a car resembling his wife's SUV appeared briefly in the bishop's driveway Saturday morning, and a tipster contacted the sheriff's office, to say that Medina had been talking strangely among friends about O'Connell owing him money. The sheriff said he had not confirmed whether Medina was actually owed money by the bishop.

Ahead of the press conference, The Pillar was the first news outlet to report that the suspect arrested for the killing was the husband of O'Connell's housekeeper.

For his part, Luna said that Medina's wife, the bishop's housekeeper, had been "fully cooperative in assisting the detectives with the information they have requested."

Luna said he had not ruled out the possibility that Medina's wife, whom he did not name, could face charges, but the sheriff suggested it was unlikely.

The sheriff told reporters that he did not yet know the "motive for this horrendous crime," adding that while a dispute might have been the cause, "it's still very early in our investigation." He asked the public to contact investigators if they had any information on Medina.

"Our priority before 8 am was to apprehend this suspect, which we did by some amazing detective work," the sheriff said.

"Our next priority is to see him prosecuted."

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In addition to Luna, local civic leaders spoke at the Monday press conference, along with Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.

While a number of local politicians took the podium to say that O'Connell had been their friend, it was Archbishop Gomez who spoke from a wellspring of obvious - and moving - personal grief.

Gomez was reportedly close to O'Connell, and had personally requested in 2015 that Pope Francis name the Irish-born priest as an auxiliary bishop.

Archbishop Jose Gomez is comforted by Sheriff Robert Luna during his remarks at a Feb. 20 press conference. Credit: LASD

At the press conference, Gomez said that O'Connell had been a "good friend to Los Angeles. Out of his love for God, he served this city for 40 years."

The archbishop especially recalled O'Connell's love for ministry among the immigrant communities of Los Angeles.  

"Of the many things I’ll remember, was that he was fluent in Spanish, with an Irish accent," Gomez recalled with a smile.

Pausing to fight back tears, the archbishop said that O'Connell "was a good priest, and a good bishop, and a man of peace. And we are very sad to lose him."

While acknowledging that the bishop's death was a "sad and painful moment for all of us," Gomez asked Catholics to "please, let's keep praying for Bishop Dave and his family."

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Bishop O’Connell, who was ordained a priest of Los Angeles in 1979, was appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles in 2015. A native of Ireland, O’Connell spent most of his priesthood in ministry among immigrant and Hispanic communities in Los Angeles.

The bishop was until his death the episcopal vicar of the San Gabriel pastoral region, one of five regional divisions of the massive Los Angeles archdiocese, which has in total more than 4 million Catholics.

The region overseen by O'Connell, which covers the eastern part of the diocese, includes some 69 parishes and 64 Catholic schools.

After his death was announced, dozens of Catholics gathered outside O'Connell's Hacienda Heights home to pray the rosary and leave tributes for the bishop.

A rosary is being said tonight outside the Hacienda Heights home where LA Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell was found murdered yesterday. @lacatholics

— Angelus News (@AngelusNews) February 20, 2023

Friends of Bishop O’Connell say he was devoted to the poor, to the rosary, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A prayer vigil in memory of Bishop David O’Connell is underway. Authorities say he was fatally shot inside his Hacienda Heights home. He had served the Los Angeles community for 45 years. @KTLA @KTLAnewsdesk

— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) February 20, 2023

O'Connell is believed to be the first American bishop to die by homicide in the U.S. in nearly 140 years.

This is a developing story and will continue being updated.  

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