Crossbow and Stabbing Incidents Shock Nebraska Town Over the Holidays

HARTINGTON, NE – In the small, tranquil town of Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, violent incidents have shattered the community’s sense of safety and peace. This town, known for its single stoplight and a population of just 1,100, is nestled in the rolling hills along the Missouri River, a mere 8 miles from the bustling city of Omaha. However, recent events have brought a chilling reminder that no place, regardless of its size or perceived tranquility, is immune to the darker aspects of human nature.

The first incident occurred on August 13, when 71-year-old Linda Childers, a longtime resident of Fort Calhoun, was brutally attacked at her secluded home near a creek. The assailant shot her three times with a crossbow and then slit her throat. Childers had been a part of the community for nearly five decades, and her violent death sent shockwaves through the town. William Collins, 30, was later arrested in Texas and found with Childers’ car and some of her belongings. Collins, who described himself as a “minimalist” and had been camping near the river, faces murder, burglary, and weapons charges.

Less than four months after this horrifying incident, the community was rocked by another gruesome attack. On December 10, Reverend Stephen Gutgsell, 65, was fatally stabbed during a break-in at the rectory next to St. John the Baptist Church. Gutgsell, who was preparing to lead Mass that day, was found with Kierre Williams, 43, sprawled across him. Williams, employed at a meatpacking plant in Sioux City, Iowa, was arrested at the scene and faces charges similar to Collins’s. The connection, if any, between the two assailants and their victims remains unclear, and neither has any apparent ties to Fort Calhoun.

These shocking events have profoundly affected the residents of Fort Calhoun, challenging their perception of their town as a haven. Local conversations, once dominated by community achievements like the high school basketball team’s success, have now shifted to concerns about safety and the unsettling nature of these crimes. Denise O’Neel, a regular visitor to the town, expressed her newfound apprehension, stating that she keeps her doors locked whenever her fiancĂ© is away.

The impact of these tragedies extends beyond the immediate community. Wendy Sue Childers, Linda Childers’ stepdaughter, now questions the safety of any place, reflecting on the spread of violence into peaceful, rural areas. The death of Reverend Gutgsell resonated so profoundly that his funeral in Omaha saw a near-full cathedral, with mourners remembering him as a movie enthusiast deeply concerned about people’s spiritual readiness.

Despite these incidents, many in Fort Calhoun, like longtime resident Mike Cimino, remain steadfast in their love for the town. While tragic, They believe these events do not define their community. Sheriff Mike Robinson echoes this sentiment, reassuring residents of their safety and highlighting the town’s historically low theft, burglary, and vandalism rates.

As the community grapples with these events, Fort Calhoun’s residents’ underlying strength and resilience shine through. They are determined to reclaim the peace and security that has long defined their small town, even in the face of such unexpected and violent disruptions.