Suspect in priest's killing out of touch with reality, mother says

CLEVELAND (AP) - The mother of a Franciscan brother who is a suspect in the killing a Roman Catholic priest says her son is "divorced from reality," The Plain Dealer reported Sunday.

Daniel Montgomery has been in the Cuyahoga County jail since he was arrested Dec. 8, one day after the Rev. William Gulas, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, was fatally shot and the church rectory was set on fire.

Janice Montgomery said she did not think it odd when her son called to say he was at the jail.

She assumed that her son, who was training to become a Franciscan friar, was there to help someone. But when he began rambling incoherently about arson and a killing, she realized something terrible had happened.

"Am I a multiple personality?" he asked his mother, The Plain Dealer reported. "I don't know what's wrong with me. I need help. I should have gotten psychiatric help."

Attorney Henry Hilow called the Montgomerys in suburban Philadelphia a few hours later to warn them that police would be listing their 37-year-old son as a suspect in the killing.

Prosecutors are expected to present evidence against Montgomery to a grand jury Monday. They have not decided whether to request a capital murder indictment and the death penalty, said a spokeswoman for Prosecutor Bill Mason.

Authorities said Montgomery confessed to killing Gulas. They have not released a motive for the killing, but Franciscan officials said Montgomery had been told he was being fired.

Montgomery's parents have heard that he confessed, but cling to a desperate hope that it's not true.

"In my heart, I truly want to believe that some stranger was hiding in the rectory," Mrs. Montgomery said. "There would be the miracle."

Montgomery, who was an intern at Gulas' parish in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood, lacks "an understanding of what happened or the events he's supposedly responsible for," Hilow said. "There's no connection to those events."

Montgomery's parents have driven to Cleveland twice to visit their son in the psychiatric unit at the jail.

Several weeks ago, Montgomery told them how much he looked forward to eating a nice meal in a restaurant and suggested they call "Father Willie" before they left town.

"He's divorced from reality," Mrs. Montgomery said. "I think it's buried so deep he can't face it. Maybe he's right -- there's two different Dannys sitting there."

There were no obvious signs of mental illness during a visit home at Thanksgiving, his parents said. He seemed a little forlorn, but when pressed, he insisted that he was fine.

His mother said Montgomery was treated for depression in 1995, but she did not know the details.

Officials at St. Stanislaus wouldn't talk to The Plain Dealer about Montgomery. Nor would the Rev. Thomas Luczak, head of the Franciscan province to which Montgomery belongs.

In a recent interview, Luczak said the shooting has tested the faith of members of the Franciscan community, causing them to look inward and examine the beliefs on which their lives are ordered.

Luczak said he can't understand why Montgomery might have wanted Gulas dead.

"That's our same struggle," he said. "We don't know why. I don't think we'll ever know why."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)