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Retired New Orleans-Area Priest, Pastoral Assistant Missing As Police Investigate Burned Bodies

Father Otis Young and Ruth Prats were reported missing from Covington, Louisiana on Sunday. Police found two bodies burned beyond recognition on Monday and have made an arrest, but not publicly connected the two cases.

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A retired Louisiana priest and a parish pastoral assistant were reported missing on Sunday and local police are investigating two bodies, burned beyond recognition, that were discovered on Monday morning.

The Rev. Otis Young, who recently retired from St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington, Louisiana — 40 miles north of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain — and Ruth Prats, the pastoral associate and director of ministries at the church, were reported missing on Sunday, according to NOLA.com. Young retired from the parish in July after 10 years due to a stroke and then heart surgery, according to New Orleans CBS affiliate WWL, and Prats reportedly retired from working in the church office to continue to assisting him after he passed off daily duties at the parish, the station said.

On Monday morning around 7 a.m., Covington Police responded to the scene of a double homicide where the victims were burned beyond recognition, they said in a press release. The bodies were found behind a local glass company after the owner reported to work on Monday morning, WWL reported. Authorities haven't linked the missing persons case to the burned bodies. 

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The church and rectory office are about half a mile west of the site where the bodies were found, and Prats' home is near the church, NOLA.com reported. The day the two disappeared was the first Sunday of the Catholic season of Advent, which leads up to Christmas, and the final Mass was celebrated at the Church at 5 p.m.

The church confirmed the two were missing and held a vigil for parishioners and community members on Monday night, according to its Facebook and web page.

"There is speculation about the identity of the victims, but until this is confirmed by the coroners office, we cannot speculate about their identities," the church said in a statement on Monday morning. "Please pray for the victims and their families while we wait for final confirmation."

The New Orleans Archdiocese's newspaper, the Clarion Herald, reported that St. Peter's current pastor, the Rev. Daniel Brouillette, acknowledged the grief of his parishioners and talked about the faith's call for forgiveness.

Police have arrested Antonio Donde Tyson, 49, for the murders of the two people found behind the glass company, they said in their press release. He is charged with two counts first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of resisting an officer and one count of illegal possession of stolen things. He was ordered held without bond for the murder charges on Tuesday, according to NOLA.com.

Official identification of the bodies has not been made, pending two autopsies that were scheduled to begin on Tuesday morning, according to police. A press conference initially scheduled for Tuesday morning about the case was later postponed.

Tyson was released from prison in August after serving 30 years for forcible rape, armed robbery and burglary, according to NOLA.com and WWL. He pleaded guilty in the case, which police said involved him breaking into a Covington home on Dec. 7, 1991 with another man, hitting the victim with a pistol, holding a pillow over her face and raping her before stealing her car. He was arrested while driving the stolen vehicle and was 18 at the time.

Tyson's sister, Leslie Tyson, previously told NOLA.com that, in the months since his release, her brother had been working with a landscaping company, spending time with his family — which includes an adult daughter and three grandchildren — and attending "church every Sunday." 

Covington Police are asking that anyone with knowledge of the murders contact the Covington Police Department at 985-892-8500 or submit tips anonymously through the “Covington PD” app.

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