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Retired Catholic priest shot dead in Florida home

Gun and rosary

Valeri Vatel | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 01/31/24

Rev. Robert Hoeffner, a priest of 50 years, is remembered for his televised Masses and establishing a trilingual parish in Palm Bay.
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A retired Catholic priest was found murdered alongside his sister in his home in Florida. The pair had been the victims of car theft and murder, but their bodies were not discovered until the suspect had an unrelated altercation with police that left several officers wounded and the suspect dead. 

According to WESH2 News, police were called to a domestic disturbance on the afternoon of January 28, 2024. At the scene, they were informed by 24-year-old Brandon Kapas’ uncle that the man had been causing property damage and was likely armed. Kapas attempted to leave the residence and refused to cooperate with police officers as he tried to get into his vehicle, at which point the police officers shocked him with a stun gun, but it was ineffective. 

A struggle ensued between officers and Kapas, who was able to break free and draw a firearm on the officers. A gunfight commenced that injured two of the officers and killed Kapas, as well as Kapas’ uncle, whom Kapas shot during the altercation. As of the January 30 report, one officer had been released from the hospital and the other is expected to recover.

When the vehicle was searched, the authorities discovered a variety of weapons, but also learned that it had been stolen from Rev. Robert Hoeffner, a retired priest who lived in the area. When police visited the Hoeffner home, the priest was found shot dead alongside his sister, Sally Hoeffner. Police are still unclear as to the motive behind the killings. 

50 years doing wonderful things for wonderful people

OSV News recalls the 50 years of service to the Catholic Church that Father Hoeffner, retired in 2016, provided in his time. Born in Rochester, New York, Fr. Hoeffner moved with his family to Florida when he was still a boy. He discerned his calling to the priesthood at a young age, while still in junior high, and entered St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami at the just 14 years old, later studying at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary and eventually earning a degree in liturgical studies from The Catholic University of America.

Ordained in 1973, Fr. Hoeffner wore many hats in his time as a priest, including celebrating Masses that were broadcast on TV through five dioceses. In his 50-year jubilee reflection, he noted how much he enjoyed broadcasting Masses over 28 years

“I enjoyed doing that. I remembered walking into a McDonalds in Georgia on a youth group excursion and someone said, ‘You’re the TV priest!’ The Mass was shown in five dioceses. I’m proud to have been a part of that,” Father Hoeffner said.

One of the achievements Fr. Hoeffner took the most pride in was establishing a trilingual parish in Palm Bay that served English-speaking, Hispanic, and Filipino communities. While in Palm Bay, he also opened a chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Fr. Hoeffner commented on these works in the jubilee notice: 

“I’ve had a glorious ride. I’m proud to serve and do wonderful things for wonderful people. I enjoy doing that,” Father Hoeffner said. “I’ve spent 50 years doing absolutely incredible things and I am thankful to God for it.”

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