From the Worldwide Faith News archives

South Dakota Pastor to Go on Trial for Murder Jan. 10

Date 13 Dec 1999 20:05:55

    South Dakota Pastor to Go on Trial for Murder Jan. 10 
    Guthrie has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife 
    by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The trial of a Presbyterian minister in South Dakota who 
is charged with killing his wife of 30 years has been scheduled for Jan. 
10, 2000. 
    The Rev. William Guthrie - a former pastor of the First Presbyterian 
Church in Wolsey, S.D., and of the Bonilla Presbyterian Church nearby - is 
jailed without bond in Huron, S.D., on a charge of first-degree murder. 
    Guthrie, 54, has pleaded not guilty. 
    The defense, citing pretrial news coverage, has filed for a change of 
venue, which may change the date and location of the trial.  That motion 
has been taken under advisement, according to Guthrie's attorney, Phil 
Parent of Madison, S.D. 
    Attorneys for both the prosecution and the defense declined further 
    Sharon Guthrie, 54, drowned in the bathtub of her Wolsey home on May 
14.  An autopsy revealed that she had taken an overdose of the sleeping 
pill Temazepan, according to the Associated Press.  The drug was prescribed 
for her husband.  Beadle County State's Attorney Michael Moore told 
reporters last August that he thinks the minister slipped the contents of 
the capsules into his wife's chocolate milk. 
    Guthrie reportedly told police that he called 911 after coming home 
from church and finding his wife in the bathtub with the water overflowing. 
He was arrested on Aug. 27. 
    "It is really pretty calm here," said the Rev. William A. Livingston, 
executive of the Presbytery of South Dakota, speaking of Guthrie's 
congregations.  "The congregations have worked through a lot of the anger 
they might have, and some of the grief." 
    Livingston said Guthrie elected to resign his pastorates last month so 
that neither congregation's life is further disrupted.  In his letter to 
the churches, Guthrie said: "It is with my deepest gratitude that I offer 
thanks for your concern for my family and me during this most difficult 
time.  It is now time for you to have the opportunity to move on to a new 
beginning in the life of your congregations and in your witness to the love 
of Jesus Christ.  I, therefore, submit my resignation as your pastor, 
effective Dec. 31, 1999.  I wish you the very best in the future." 
    Both congregations accepted Guthrie's resignation on Nov. 14. 
    Livingston said Guthrie has been leading Bible studies in the jail.  He 
said Guthrie continues to be "a minister in good standing" in the 
presbytery and is "considered innocent until proven otherwise." 
    No ecclesiastical disciplinary committee has been formed. 
    The Rev. William Pfautz of Huron, a retired pastor, has served as 
temporary supply pastor in the 117-member Wolsey church and the 96-member 
Bonilla church since Guthrie was arrested.  "People in the congregation 
have taken the stance that he is innocent until proven otherwise," he told 
the Presbyterian News Service, describing both churches as "quite stable." 
    Guthrie, who moved with his family to Wolsey in 1996, has three grown 

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