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Alleged gunman claims slain bishop owed him money — sheriff doesn’t believe him

Bishop David O’Connell was found dead at his home in Southern California over the weekend.
/ Source: NBC News

The man accused of fatally shooting a popular Southern California bishop said the slain priest owed him money, but investigators rejected that claim Wednesday.

Carlos Medina, 61, was formally charged with murder in the death of Bishop David O’Connell, 69, and could face 35 years to life in prison, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said.

Medina, the husband of O’Connell’s housekeeper, has told investigators he confronted the bishop over money that was allegedly owed to him, authorities have said.

But L.A. County Sheriff’s Lt. Michael Modica said Wednesday that investigators don’t believe that to be the case.

“When he was interviewed he spoke, he said several different reasons (for wanting to kill O’Connell),” Modica told reporters.

“And none of them made any sense to the investigators. So we don’t believe there’s any validity to the owed money (claim).”

Modica and Gascón left the brief meeting with reporters without answering any other questions about a potential motive.

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday afternoon if Medina had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

The bishop was found fatally shot multiple times in his suburban L.A. home of Hacienda Heights on Saturday.

There was no forced entry, leading investigators to believe Medina had access to a key, having worked at O’Connell’s home in the past, Gascón said.

A deacon found the bishop’s body but thought he died of natural causes, Gascón said.

Bishop David O'Connell hosts a community memorial service in Long Beach, Calif.
Bishop David O'Connell hosts a community memorial service in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 14, 2020.Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file

“But the sheriff’s department responded very quickly and then the paramedics came in, and it became obvious that it was not a natural death, that it was a crime,” the prosecutor said.

Medina was arrested at his home in Torrance on Monday.

O’Connell was well-known to Southern California Catholics and authorities for his work with the poor, immigrants and gang members.

“His loss is one that will be felt deeply for years to come,” said Gascón, a progressive DA who survived a recall effort last year and faces re-election in 2024.

“This was a brutal act of violence against a person who dedicated a life to making our neighborhoods safer, healthier and always serving with life and compassion,” he said.

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