CV NEWS FEED // The Diocese of Orlando is mourning the death of a beloved Catholic priest in central Florida, who was murdered on Sunday at his home, where he had retired.
The bodies of Father Robert John Hoeffner and his sister, Sally Joan Hoeffner, were found as Palm Bay police were investigating a separate murder.
On Sunday, January 28, a Palm Bay police officer responded to a domestic disturbance. When they arrived at the scene, witnesses identified Brandan Kapas (24) as a suspect in the case. They alleged that Kapas was being disruptive and destroying property at a birthday party occurring at the home.
Police were notified that Kapas was likely armed, and when officers made contact, Kapas ran towards a vehicle, ignoring police commands. Officers attempted to arrest him by using a taser. After that attempt, Kapas opened fire at the officers, who eventually shot and killed Kapas.
Following the shootout, officers discovered that the vehicle Kapas attempted to flee in was registered to a different address. When police visited the address, they discovered the bodies of Father Hoeffner, a retired priest, and his sister’s.
According to the Diocese of Orlando, Father Hoeffner was one of eight children who moved from New York to Fort Pierce (FL,) where his family kept citrus groves.
At 14, when it was time for high school, he chose to enter St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami and was ordained a priest on April 28, 1973.
At the celebration of his 50th anniversary to the priesthood, Father Hoeffner quipped, “I’ve spent 50 years doing absolutely incredible things and I am thankful to God for it.”
Orlando Bishop John Noonan released a statement mourning the loss of Father Hoeffner and sharing his dedication to the priesthood.
“We mourn with the St. Joseph Catholic community in Palm Bay over the tragic loss of these four lives as we pray for the repose of their souls and extend our prayers to their families. I share with you that Father Robert ‘Bob’ Hoeffner and his sister, Sally, both were tragically murdered yesterday. Throughout his priesthood, Father Hoeffner served the people of God with compassion and humility.”
“We will miss his grace-filled presence. We know he and his sister were received by the Lord with mercy and love. We also pray for the two police officers who were injured yesterday and for our public servants who safeguard our community, and we extend our gratitude to them during this difficult time,” said the statement.
“Throughout his priesthood, Father Hoeffner served the people of God with compassion and humility,” Most Reverend John Noonan said in a statement. “We will miss his grace-filled presence. We know he and his sister are received by the Lord with mercy and love.”
The police are currently investigating whether Father Hoeffner or his sister had a relationship with Kapas and what the nature of that relationship was.
Parishioners at St. Joseph Catholic Church, where Father Hoeffner frequently offered Mass, were mourning the loss of the priest. Chrissy Kruppenbach, a parishioner at the church, shared with Fox 35 that the incident was “senseless” and that the entire community was mourning the loss.
“This is a tragedy for our entire Catholic community,” said Kruppenbach. “He would listen to [parishioners] confessions and do anointings. He was a wonderful priest.”