Tag Archives: murder


24 Feb

Anarchist Glories in Crime committed in View of Denver Congregation

Assassin “Hates All Priests.”

DENVER, Col., Feb. 23. 1908 — Father Leo Heinrichs, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, was shot and killed at the altar this morning by Giuseppe Guarnacoto (Alia), an Italian Anarchist, who entered the church ostensibly to take the sacrament.

Among those attending the Mass was fifty year old Giuseppe Alia, who had recently immigrated from Italy. Alia arrived before Mass and seated himself in the third row, in front of the pulpit. It was a 6 a.m. “Workingmen’s Mass,” and there was only a short sermon so that the men would not be late for work.

During Communion, Alia knelt at the communion rail and received the host. Then, however, he spat it into his hand and flung it at Father Leo’s face.

The host dropped to the floor as Alia drew his revolver and aimed it at Father Leo’s heart. As an altar boy screamed a warning, the Sicilian opened fire.

The mortally wounded priest exclaimed, “My God, my God!,” before falling to the floor. Before dying, he placed the ciborium on the step of Our Lady’s altar, and managed to place two fallen hosts back into the ciborium before strength left him. In a last gesture, Father Leo pointed to the spilled hosts that he was now too weak to pick up.

Guiseppe Alia attempted to flee the church, but E.J. Quigley, a conductor for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, tripped him. Then, Patrolman Daniel Cronin, an off-duty Denver police officer placed the anarchist under arrest and delivered him to the city jail.

At the police station, Alia boasted of his anarchist ideas, saying,

“I went over there because I have a grudge against all priests in general. They are all against the workingman. I went to the communion rail because I could get a better shot. I did not care whether he was a German priest or any other kind of priest. They are all in the same class… I shot him, and my only regret is that I could not shoot the whole bunch of priests in the church.”

Alia was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging within weeks of the shooting.

Shortly before the execution, a Franciscan priest from St. Elizabeth’s visited Alia in prison. Infuriated, Alia cursed and swore at him.

Alia never expressed any remorse, and, despite the pleas of the friars at St. Elizabeth’s, he was hanged at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City. Alia’s last words, reportedly, were “Death to the priests!”