The Trail Went Cold – Episode 13 – Father Rivera and Father Kerrigan

August 7, 1982. Santa Fe, New Mexico. A Catholic priest named Father Reynaldo Rivera receives a phone call from a man asking him to administer last rites to a dying relative. After leaving to meet this man at a rest stop, Father Rivera disappears and is soon found murdered. Two years later, another Catholic priest named Father John Kerrigan disappears from the community of Ronan, Montana and though his body is never found, the evidence suggests he was also murdered. There are enough similarities between the two crimes that investigators start wondering if they might be connected and committed by a serial killer targeting Catholic priests. However, allegations have surfaced to suggest that one of the priests may have been harboring dark secrets which contributed to his death. I will be analyzing two unsolved cases on this week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, as I attempt to figure out what happened to both Father Rivera and Father Kerrigan.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

6 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 13 – Father Rivera and Father Kerrigan

  • Good episode! I think your analysis of Fr. Kerrigan’s case makes sense. It sounds like something caught up with him from his past.

    The other case is much more bizarre. When you said that he was targeted only for being a priest, and the only thing missing from his car was his kit of religious articles, that made me think of the occult angle. It sounds kind of like some satanist decided they should kill a priest maybe as part of some kind of ritual, and take his religious articles for a similar purpose. In any case the whole crime seems highly (anti-?)religious, and given that it involves murder it just makes me think about satanism. Did the police look into that theory?

    • I don’t know if investigators ever explored that theory, but it’s very compelling. But I’d actually be surprised if they didn’t look into that angle, considering how satanism and the occult became a very popular theory to explore for crimes during the 1980s.

  • Thanks for another thought-provoking TWC, Robin. I wholly agree with all of your theories and opinions. You should be working in the criminal justice system …we need people like you!

    In regards to Rivera’s case, it seems like the perpetrator had likely never committed a murder before (at least not one of pre-meditation). The whole thing seems scatter-brained and not too well-planned. Especially the fact that the car was driven until the fuel ran out. Conversely, this fact could be a diversion: Perhaps they did in fact live in the immediate area and simply wanted LE to think they were fleeing in the opposite direction.

    As for Kerrigan’s case, another comment here suggested that taking the last rites kit could be related to occultism. I have another theory based on simple psychology. It could be the offender took the kit as a final insult. If it’s true that this was a vengeance crime, there’s obviously lots of rage and passion involved. To me it would make sense to take something of precious, utmost importance to both the priest and the church for the purpose of later desecrating it. They may have even kept it in a defiled state as a trophy of sorts, using it as an everlasting reminder of their anger.

    Once again, great podcast. I’d like to see added to your backlogs the cold cases of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour out of Toronto. These could possibly involve a serial killer, and it looks like LE is once again asking the public for help in solving it.

    • Thanks for the compliments. You’ll be happy to know that for our final episode of the month, I’ll be analyzing a controversial case in which an innocent person may have been convicted. And, yes, as a Canadian, it’s taken far too long for me to feature a Canadian story so I will add those two cold cases to my backlog.

  • So what if it wasn’t the priest who brought the money? What if it was someone insulted by church payoff money? $1200 isn’t much compared to a ruined childhood and lifelong trauma, and to receive it in place of your abuser being punished… could make anyone snap. I posit the money was shoved into his shirt pocket at the onset of the confrontation, the remainder being placed in his wallet after his death as part of the message. “I punished him, keep your money” or something like that.
    As for the first guy, that rest stop meeting probably went exactly as planned, followed by “follow me” to the body dump, where they just stopped, got out, and shot him. Probably two people, that’s all would fit in a truck. The cleanup followed and one took the car and the truck followed, rejoining and going home after the car ran out of gas. No idea why, though.

  • Well, what if it wasn’t circumstances around molestation that brought these two priests down? As a Catholic I know that confession is a big part of our idiotic ritual as well as,many others. What if this person was clergy or a parishioner at the church that these two were priests at? Did they ever have the same Parish. If they were both part of the same clergy, maybe they were holding secrets for one of the other priests, decons, whom ever, and wanted to come clean and could no longer keep such a vial secret or confession. Maybe it is just a random act of violence against priests, I totally can see someone doing that. As for bringing the last rites kit, well clearly it was for the Priests. The murderer or ‘s could have just tossed that in the bushes anywhere between the cars travels. Sad nonetheless. I hope we can find closure someday.

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