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Rossmoor resident agrees to plea deal in DUI-related pedestrian death

Stephen Miller Kiesle will serve six years and eight months in state prison

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


(Monday, Oct. 23, 1:50 p.m.) MARTINEZ — Rossmoor resident Stephen Miller Kiesle has agreed to a plea deal with a sentence of six years and eight months in state prison rather than face a trial for the April 2022 DUI-related death of a pedestrian walking along Tice Creek Drive.

Kiesle must appear in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Friday, Dec. 8, for change of plea, formal sentencing and to surrender to the court, according to Superior Court Judge Jennifer Lee.

Kiesle’s attorney, Michael Markowitz, and Deputy Contra Costa County District Attorney Victor Mendoza agreed to those terms during a hearing Monday morning in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

Of the plea deal terms, Markowitz said after the hearing that “I don’t think it’s fair, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” The terms were, however, preferable to the alternative of going through a trial, which both he and Mendoza have said they expected would last about two weeks.

Lee cautioned, however, that should any further unexpected delays crop up disrupting these plans for Dec. 8, the trial preparation would begin that day.

Kiesle, 76, faces one count of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and two enhanced counts of driving under the influence of alcohol related to the April 16, 2022, death of Rossmoor resident Curtis Gunn. He and his wife, Laurelyn Gunn, were walking along Tice Creek Drive to their Rossmoor home from a trivia night gathering at Gateway when a 2012 Lexus SUV headed south on Tice Creek jumped the curb and struck both Gunns.

Curtis Gunn was killed; Laurelyn Gunn suffered a broken wrist and other injuries. Kiesle, the driver of the SUV, also sustained minor injuries.

Earlier this year, Markowitz had sought to have the “gross” vehicular manslaughter count, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, reduced to simple vehicular manslaughter, and its maximum four-year sentence. But in May, Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Laurel Brady denied that request.

The enhancements to the DUI counts stem from prior felony convictions for Kiesle, a defrocked Catholic priest who in 2004 was sentenced to six years in prison on child molestation charges.

Kiesle, a registered sex offender who moved to Rossmoor in 2010, did not attend Monday’s hearing. Laurelyn Gunn, along with a cadre of supporters, did attend the hearing but declined to comment on the plea deal.

Kiesle faced child sexual abuse allegations while serving as a priest in the Diocese of Oakland in the 1970s and 1980s. He was removed as a clergy member in 1987.