From the Worldwide Faith News archives

South Dakota Pastor Is Charged with Killing His Wife

Date 31 Aug 1999 20:09:43

    South Dakota Pastor Is Charged with Killing His Wife 
    by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A 54-year-old Presbyterian minister pled not guilty in a 
South Dakota courtroom Aug. 30 to a charge of killing his wife of 30 years. 
    The Rev. William Guthrie - pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in 
Wolsey, S.D., and the Bonilla Presbyterian Church in a nearby town - was 
arrested Aug. 27 by the Beadle County Sheriff's Department. 
    He is jailed in Huron, S.D., without bond on a charge of first-degree 
    Sharon Guthrie, 54, of Wolsey, drowned in a bathtub in her home May 14. 
An autopsy revealed an overdose of Temazepam, a sleeping pill, in her body, 
according to Associated Press reports.  Temazepan was a drug that was 
prescribed for her husband. 
    Guthrie apparently told police that he called 911 after coming home 
from church and finding his wife in the bathtub, with water overflowing. 
    "He's a suspect [Guthrie] because of the direction the investigation 
went.  We looked at every aspect: Suicide?  Accident?  And it all comes 
back to Mr. Guthrie having a part in it," said Deputy Jim Sheridan of the 
Beadle County Sheriff's Department.  Sheridan implied that the 
investigation turned up "some motive," though he was reluctant to say more. 
    Beadle County State's Attorney Michael Moore told the Presbyterian News 
Service that Mrs. Guthrie's death was suspect from the beginning because 
"adults just don't drown in the bathtub.  That's basically the bottomline," 
he said. 
     "There had to be a reason for her to do that."  Moore later told the 
Associated Press that he believes Guthrie slipped sleeping pills into his 
wife's chocolate milk, causing her to pass out and drown in the bathtub. 
    In wire reports earlier this week, Moore disclosed that Guthrie had 
been a suspect since the autopsy.  He said, too, that Guthrie allegedly had 
an affair with a woman from a former congregation in Nebraska and continued 
to have telephone contact with her after moving to Wolsey. 
    The Committee on Ministry in the Presbytery of South Dakota met this 
week and took three actions.  It granted Guthrie an indefinite leave of 
absence, with full salary and benefits, and put a temporary supply pastor 
in place, the Rev. William Pfautz, a retired Presbyterian minister.  It 
also established a disciplinary investigative team to look into the 
non-criminal allegations that emerged around Guthrie in the police 
investigation, such as alleged sexual misconduct with a parishioner. 
    "Bill Guthrie is a minister in good standing ... and we believe firmly 
in the premise of being innocent until proven otherwise," the Rev. William 
Livingston, interim executive of the Presbytery of South Dakota told the 
Presbyterian News Service just after Guthrie's hearing.  "We're asking all 
members of the presbytery to offer prayers for the Guthrie family and for 
the churches in Bonilla and Wolsey." 
    Livingston said the presbytery intends to proceed pastorally, to be 
supportive to Guthrie, his family and the churches.  Both the Bonilla and 
Wolsey Sessions, he said, have voiced support for Guthrie. 
    The Guthries moved to Wolsey in 1996 and have three grown daughters. 
Mrs. Guthrie died just before the scheduled wedding of one of the couples' 
daughters - something the state's attorney  found peculiar.  "Her 
daughter," Moore said in wire accounts, "was getting married in two weeks 
and she was going to wear her mother's wedding gown. 
    "We didn't think she would commit suicide two weeks before her 
daughter's wedding." 
    Guthrie's family issued a statement to media earlier this week.  It 
reads: "Please remember our family has lost a wife, a sister, a mother and 
a grandmother.  We stand as a family and with God and ask the Christian 
community to be with us in prayer through this whole time." 

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