Missing priest's body burned beyond recognition along with slain church volunteer

A police crime scene.
A police crime scene. | Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Louisiana police said a convicted rapist released from prison just months ago has been accused of killing a retired pastor and a church volunteer and burning their bodies “beyond recognition” before dumping them in downtown Covington, a New Orleans suburb.

The victims have been identified as a 71-year-old Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Fr. Otis Young, and 73-year-old parish assistant Ruth Prats, according to Catholic News Service, which quoted police as saying their bodies were found “burned beyond recognition” behind a glass store less than a mile away from the church this week.

Hours after the bodies were found, police announced the arrest of 49-year-old Antonio Donde Tyson of Covington, WBRZ2 reported.

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Dodson was driving a car belonging to Prats early Monday and was reportedly involved in a hit and run, WBRZ2 said, adding that detectives found Prats’ phone in a dumpster. The detectives were then able to find out what happened as they accessed surveillance video from the area.

The video showed Tyson riding a bicycle past Prats’ home Sunday afternoon, according to WSDU. Tyson then spoke to Prats and Young for a few minutes, as per the video, which also showed Tyson then leaving and parking his bike on the side of a grocery store before walking up to Prats’ front door with what appeared to be a knife behind his back in a crouched position.

Young retired in July after pastoring St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington for about 10 years, and Prats was his caretaker. Police said the accused had no association with St. Peters Church.

In a statement, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of the New Orleans Archdiocese said, “The horror of the events that have unfolded here in Covington is beyond shocking. The pain, sadness, and disbelief that something like this could happen will stay with us but particularly those who are most directly affected for a very long time.”

He recalled that Young was “a beloved pastor who touched the lives of so many with his faith, warmth, and pastoral heart.”

“This is a loss for our church and for the entire community,” he said. “For all those who are hurting and asking how this could happen, may I humbly offer that we turn to our Lord Jesus in this time of mourning.”

Tyson has been booked on two counts each of first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping, obstruction of justice, resisting an officer and illegal possession of stolen things.

Tyson was released from a Louisiana state prison in August, following a 1993 conviction for burglary, armed robbery and forcible rape, The Daily Beast said, adding he was arrested in 1991 when he was 18 years old. After a violent home invasion, he raped the victim at gunpoint and, with an accomplice, he stole the woman’s car and fled.

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