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WKBW 7 News Buffalo

Buffalo News series focuses on 1966 monsignor murder mystery

By Eileen Buckley, Hannah Buehler,


The murder of a Buffalo priest back in 1966 is the focus of an extensive series of reports in the Buffalo News.

"Who killed the monsignor" focuses on the death of Monsignor Francis O’Connor which has remained a cold case for nearly 60 years.

In 1966 the priest’s body was found floating in the Scajaquada Creek in Buffalo.

The priest also served as editor of the newspaper of the Diocese of Buffalo, The Magnificat, at the time of his murder. Buffalo News
Monsignor Francis J. O'Connor, in a photo taken by Buffalo News in 1961.

Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News award-winning journalist, says the 18-day series has focused on the deep secrecy of the Catholic Diocese especially surrounding one of the suspects who was a priest.

“There people who spoke to individuals, who are directly involved in the investigation, who said they were ordered to shut down the investigation after people in power in Buffalo spoke to the bishop of Buffalo,” Herbeck explained.

Herbeck says the 1966 murder investigation was suddenly stopped and the Buffalo News reporting team has discovered a number of Buffalo Police files are missing in the cold case. WKBW
Dan Herbeck, Buffalo News reporter, discusses work on the series of stories.

“There were dozens of reports missing from the file in this case,” questions Herbeck.

Herbeck also describes how a series of stories reveal the strong secrecy the Diocese conducted surrounding sexual abuse by priests as Buffalo Police investigated the murder.

“While they're investigating this murder, they did come up with a number of allegations that a priest named Father John Lewandowski, molested children — did very inappropriate things with teenage boys and it's interesting — he was never charged with any of that,” remarked Herbeck.

In March of 2018, Lewandowski was among a number of Buffalo priests named in the Church's child abuse scandal .

Herbeck described that after nearly 60 years, all the suspects involved in the murder case are now deceased making it very unlikely anyone could be charged unless there was an accomplished still living.

But Herbeck says it’s still important the cold case is given the attention it deserves and fight for the truth.

“It's always good to find out the truth that's what historians do that's what journalists do,” described Herbeck.

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