Kierre Williams, right, sits with his attorneys in court, Jan....

Kierre Williams, right, sits with his attorneys in court, Jan. 3, 2024, in Blair, Neb. Williams of Sioux City, Iowa, pleaded not guilty Thursday, Feb. 8, in the attack that killed the Rev. Stephen Gutgsell, who was fatally stabbed on Dec. 10, 2023, inside the rectory for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in tiny Fort Calhoun, Neb. Credit: AP/Josh Funk

BLAIR, Neb. — A man accused of killing a priest in a small Nebraska town pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and other charges on Thursday.

Kierre Williams, 43, of Sioux City, Iowa, also is accused of using a deadly weapon to commit a felony, burglary and possession of a weapon by a prohibited person. His next court date is March 5, KETV-TV reported.

Prosecutors have said there doesn’t appear to be any connection between Williams and the Rev. Stephen Gutgsell, who was fatally stabbed on Dec. 10 inside the rectory for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska.

Williams' attorney has declined to discuss the case.

The priest’s death came four months after another seemingly random home invasion killing in the town of 1,100 and shook residents’ confidence in their safety.

At a hearing last month, Washington County Deputy Brady Tucker testified that he found Williams lying crossways on top of Gutgsell, whose face was covered with blood. Williams didn’t have a weapon, but investigators later found a broken knife with a serrated blade lying in a blood stain on the floor of Gutgsell’s bedroom, authorities said.

Williams has several felony convictions in other states.

This photo provided by the Archdiocese of Omaha shows the...

This photo provided by the Archdiocese of Omaha shows the Rev. Stephen Gutgsell. Kierre Williams of Sioux City, Iowa, pleaded not guilty Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in the attack that killed Gutgsell, who was fatally stabbed on Dec. 10, 2023, inside the rectory for St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in tiny Fort Calhoun, Neb. Credit: AP

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