For print only.

Resident Stephen Kiesle’s preliminary hearing underway

Laurelyn Gunn testifies about accident that killed her husband

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


MARTINEZ (Friday, Jany. 20) – Curtis and Laurelyn Gunn were walking home from a Trivia Night gathering at Gateway on April 16 when they heard a rumbling sound behind them.

“We were holding hands and talking and we heard a very strange sound behind us …. And we looked at each other like, ‘What was that?’” said Laurelyn Gunn, in a Contra Costa County Superior Courtroom Friday morning. “It was like thunder at ground level.”

She then felt a jolt on her right elbow. “The best I can describe it is that a ‘black hole’ came by … and Curt was gone.”

These words came during testimony Friday morning during a preliminary hearing for 75-year-old Stephen Kiesle, who has been charged with one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, two counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and special enhancements for prior felonies in connection with the April 16 death of Curtis Gunn. Police said Gunn was struck by a black 2012 Lexus SUV alongside Tice Creek Drive near the intersection of Fairlawn Court as he and his wife Laurelyn were walking home. Investigators believe the SUV that struck the Gunns was headed south on Tice Creek, jumped the curb, hit the couple and ended up on its side at the intersection with Fairlawn Court.,

A preliminary hearing is a proceeding to determine whether there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial.

Laurelyn, who suffered a broken wrist and hand and knee injuries, got to her feet to find her husband lying unconscious in the street. His hat, glasses and shoes were in various other spots on the street. She said his name two times, she said, and put her hand on his back.

“There was no muscle tone whatsoever,” a calm and succinct Laurelyn Gunn testified Friday morning. “He was not breathing, and his legs were at very odd angles.”

He died a short time later at John Muir Medical Center, where Laurelyn and Kielse also were both taken for treatment of their injuries.

The Gunns had been at a table with Kiesle and two others playing trivia earlier in the evening. Curt Gunn, Kiesle and two others shared a 24-oz. bottle of homemade beer while playing, Laurelyn testified. Kiesle seemed “normal” at that point, she said, but went on to say that while Kiesle was asking bonus trivia questions using a microphone, “his speech was slurred; he was having difficulty matching up the correct questions with the answers.”

Police later learned Kiesle’s blood-alcohol level, drawn about two hours after the accident, was .113, above California’s .08 legal limit.

Kiesle, who had been living in Rossmoor since 2010, is a defrocked Catholic priest who in 2004 was sentenced to six years in prison on child molestation charges. It is those felonies that counted as special enhancements related to the newer DUI-related counts. Kiesle was in court Friday, appearing alert and attentive all morning.

The hearing was to resume at 1:30 p.m. Friday.