Police in Covington, Louisiana, say one of two burned corpses found near the St. Peter Catholic Church is that of 70-year-old Father Otis Young, Jr., a retired priest who was reported missing Sunday along with his 71-year-old caretaker and parish assistant, Ruth Prats.
The second body will need DNA verification for a positive identity.
The priest died of sharp and blunt force trauma, according to the St. Tammany Parish coroner as cited by NOLA.com. Both bodies, which were discovered Monday morning, were burned beyond recognition.
Young, who suffered a massive stroke that left him partially disabled during the pandemic, told a local news outlet in June that he struggled to get around.
“It’s very stressful because I try to maintain my balance,” he said. “The standing is a part of what I have to do. I do the Mass as I regularly do, and the deacons have been preaching a lot to give me a chance to sit down and renew my energy.”
Young retired four months ago.
Without releasing a motive, police arrested Antonio Tyson, 49, in connection with the burned bodies. Tyson, just released from a 30-year prison term for rape, has been charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping, obstruction of justice, and illegal possession of a stolen vehicle.
It is unclear if that vehicle is Prats’, which was reported missing on Sunday.
Young was under Prats’ full-time carer after his stroke and the two were inseparable, according to local media reports.
Tammany Parish, where Young lived, tweeted its condolences on Tuesday, asking for a speedy investigation.
“We stand behind the Covington Police Department and St. Tammany Parish Sheriffs Office as they investigate this heinous action. Please join me in praying for the families and friends of the victims and the entire Covington community.”
St. Peter church said Tyson had no affiliation with the church.
“We are deeply saddened, and ask that you join us in praying for Fr. Otis and Ruth, who is still listed as a missing person, as well as for their families,” the church said in a statement on its website.