Murder at the rectory

In the summer of 1921, a Methodist minister fatally shot the most prominent Catholic priest in Birmingham, Alabama, on his rectory porch in broad daylight.

The motive was obvious. That day, Father James Coyle had performed the wedding of Edwin Stephenson's 18-year-old daughter, Ruth, to Pedro Gussman, a Catholic Puerto Rican laborer more than two decades her senior. After killing Coyle, Stephenson promptly walked from the rectory to the nearby courthouse and confessed to the crime.

Sharon Davies skillfully traces how an open-and-shut murder case unraveled. That the outcome seemed foreordained did not inhibit Davies from writing a gripping trial history.


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