Defrocked priest formally charged with felony manslaughter for Rossmoor crash

Danville San Ramon [Danville, CA]

April 21, 2022

By Bay City News Service

A former Catholic priest removed from the clergy in a sex abuse scandal was charged Wednesday with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in Rossmoor by the Contra Costa County district attorney.

Walnut Creek police said 75-year-old Stephen Kiesle, of Rossmoor, was behind the wheel of a vehicle at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday night that struck a couple walking on the sidewalk on Tice Creek Drive near Fairlawn Court in Rossmoor. The collision killed 64-year-old Curtis Gunn and caused minor injuries to his wife, Laurelyn Gunn, both of Rossmoor.

Kiesle, who police said also suffered minor injuries, was extricated from his vehicle by the fire department and later arrested.

According to a news release issued Wednesday from the office of District Attorney Diana Becton, Kiesle was also charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and other special allegations for prior felonies.

Kiesle has a lengthy criminal history and is being held in the Martinez Detention Facility on a $600,000 bail. He will be arraigned Thursday at 1:35 p.m. in Martinez.

Kiesle was at the center of sexual abuse allegations when he was an Oakland Diocese priest in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the news release, and was removed as a member of the clergy in 1987 by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

According to the website,, Kiesle was accused of sexually abusing at least 15 children. He pleaded no contest in 1978 to a misdemeanor charge of lewd conduct for tying up and molesting two boys and received three years’ probation, according to He left the priesthood in 1981, which didn’t become official until 1987.

In 2002, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office charged Kiesle with 13 counts of child molestation from the ’70s, according to Becton’s news release.

In 2004, he was sentenced to six years for molestation charges involving a girl in Truckee. He registered as a sex offender after serving prison time and moved to Rossmoor in 2010.

In January 2022, the family of a deceased man who said he was repeatedly sexually abused as a child by Kiesle filed suit against the Diocese of Oakland, under the provisions of a new state law that allows such cases to move forward.

The family and estate of Jim Bartko, former athletic director at Fresno State University, filed the suit in Alameda County Superior Court.

The suit alleges Bartko suffered repeated sexual abuse from 1972 to 1975 at the hands of Kiesle, then a priest with the Diocese of Oakland and assigned to St. Joseph’s Parish in Pinole.