GERMANTOWN, Md. -- The slaying of a priest, perhaps after a burglary, prompted expressions of grief that echoed far beyond the parish where he'd served as pastor for 18 months.
Monsignor Thomas Wells, 56, was found early Thursday in a bedroom of his second-floor residence over the rectory office of Mother Seton Catholic Church in Germantown.
''Monsignor Wells was involved with a violent altercation with an assailant or assailants,'' said Officer Joyce Barrow, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department. Barrow added there was evidence that an attacker may have been injured. Police would not speculate on the cause of death but said there was evidence Wells was beaten.
Lt. William C. O'Toole said a parish staff member arriving for work discovered the body. He said police are examining the possibility of a burglary, but declined to say whether anything was missing.
As word spread through the parish of 2,000 families, members rushed to the church to express their shock and disbelief.
''He was exceptional because he'd always have time for you,'' said Denise Clark, 45, a parishioner who also manages the rectory's cleaning service. She said Wells often counseled parishioners at his kitchen table.
''It's like losing a parent or a grandparent,'' said Kacy Furey, whose two daughters were altar servers and whose husband regularly played golf with Wells.
''Let us pray for an end to senseless violence in our society,'' Cardinal James Hickey, the archbishop of Washington, said in a written statement.
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