Oakland priest convicted of child molestation allegedly kills federal worker while driving drunk

April 19, 2022Updated: April 19, 2022 12:22 p.m.
A defrocked Bay Area Catholic priest convicted of child molestation and accused by multiple families of sexual abuse and assault during his decades-long tenure has now been arrested for allegedly killing a man while driving drunk in a gated community.
Stephen Kiesle, the 75-year-old who was at the center of an Associated Press exposé on Pope Benedict, was arrested Sunday morning on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence, Walnut Creek police told Rossmoor.com.

The crash took place at around 9:15 p.m. in the “active adults 55+” gated community of Rossmoor, Rossmoor.com reported, when Curtis and Laurelyn Gunn were walking home from an event at the nearby Gateway Complex. While approaching an intersection, a car going above the 25 mph speed limit hit the Gunns while driving on the curb, striking Curtis head-on and scraping Laurelynn. Curtis Gunn was pronounced dead at the scene, the news site said.

Kiesle was arrested about an hour later, according to Contra Costa County records. 


The ex-priest left the church in 1987, 15 years after after his ordination. Decades later, he received new global scrutiny after an Associated Press investigation found that Pope Benedict XIV, during his time as a cardinal, may have been complicit in keeping Kiesle in the church for years despite his request — and requests from the Oakland diocese — to remove him from service. The pope, in his capacity as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, expressed concerns about Kiesle's removal, including "the good of the universal church."

In 1978, Kiesle was convicted of molesting six boys at Our Lady of the Rosary parish school in Union City, where he was a teacher and campus director. Allegations surfaced in 2002 that he had molested three girls at a Fremont church before he became a priest.

Earlier this year, the estate of deceased former Fresno State athletic director Jim Bartko filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Diocese claiming it did not protect Bartko from allegedly being molested by Kiesle between 1972 and 1975 at another church in Pinole. 

Gunn, according to his LinkedIn, was employed for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a Department of Treasury agency bureau that serves as a national bank regulator. A bureau spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from SFGATE.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, condemned Kiesle in a statement Tuesday morning: "Mr. Kiesle not only killed Mr. Gunn and left Mrs. Gunn mourning, he also destroyed the lives of all of the children he abused and caused untold grief to their loved ones."

"My view is that this tragedy could have been avoided," said Dan McNevin, the Oakland head of SNAP, in a statement to SFGATE. "It was a stomach punch to me personally to hear about this death."

Kiesle is currently being held in the Martinez Detention Facility on $250,000 bail.

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