Expert: Priest doesn’t fit profile | SierraSun.com
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Expert: Priest doesn’t fit profile

Stephen Kiesle
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A former Catholic priest and convicted child molester does not match the profile of the person that kidnapped 7-year-old Amber Swartz-Garcia in 1988, says a criminal profiler who wrote a book about Bay Area child abductions.

John Philpin, a retired Vermont forensic psychologist and criminal profiler, said the descriptions from people who knew Stephen Kiesle, 55, differ from the type of person he believes snatched Amber.

Philpin has worked on more than 300 murder investigations.



“The person that took Amber is of a predatory intent, a guy who gets off on control, having absolute control over his victim, seeing them frightened and terrifying them,” Philpin said.

“As I understand it, (Kiesle) was sort of doing the seduction fondle kind of routine with kids that would have trusted him.”




Kiesle lived on Amber’s street in Pinole and was a volunteer youth minister at her family’s church, authorities said. Kim Swartz, Amber’s mother, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Kiesle exuded a “nice-guy persona,” and walked his pet collies through the neighborhood with his wife.

Kiesle was arrested in May and charged with seven counts of child molestation involving three girls at Santa Paula Catholic Church in Fremont, where he worked from 1968 to 1971, said Kevin Murphy, district attorney for Alameda County.

Police dug around Kiesle’s vacation home in Truckee after piecing together Amber’s disappearance with his past and getting several “hits” with cadaver-sniffing dogs in the yard.

They recovered no evidence and were deliberated whether to resume their search with ground sonar, a device that uses waves to find objects underground.

Philpin said he spent five years researching the disappearances of San Francisco Bay area girls and had not heard of Kiesle until police began investigation potential links.

The defrocked priest pleaded no contest in 1978 to lewd conduct – he tied up and sexually molested two boys, 11 and 12 years old, in the rectory of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Union City.

Kiesle was sentenced to three years probation, and left the ministry. Because it was a misdemeanor conviction, the case was later expunged from Kiesle’s record and he never was questioned when Amber vanished.

In 1981, Kiesle resigned following his conviction, and returned to volunteer as a youth minister in 1985 at Pinole’s St. Joseph’s Church after undergoing intensive therapy.

Kiesle also could face charges from Pinole, where police are investigating child molestation allegations from two men, according to Cmdr. John Miner. The department has recently received calls from five people, both male and female, claiming relations with Kiesle. Miner emphasized officials have not yet confirmed those accusations.

Kiesle was released on $180,000 bond.


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