Crime & Courts

Remains found near Protection belong to Kansas priest who disappeared two years ago

Nearly two years ago, retired Kansas priest Fr. Marvin Reif left the Protection retirement home where he lived for his daily walk and never returned.

On Wednesday, a person hunting for antlers found human remains in a pasture to the east of the tiny Comanche County town. And the local county hospital confirmed they belong to Reif. He was 53 when he disappeared on April 3, 2017.

Comanche County Sheriff Mike Lehl said Thursday it appears Reif succumbed to the elements.

Reif’s funeral services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Great Bend, according to Nicholson-Ricke Funeral Home. A rosary will be held at the church at 3 p.m. Sunday.

His family has requested memorial donations be made to either search and rescue organization Texas EquuSearch or to the Seminary Burse Endowment Fund, the funeral home said.

Donations may be mailed to Nicholson-Ricke Funeral Home, P.O. 146, Hoisington, KS 67544.

“Father Marvin will continue to be remembered as one who sought to serve others in and out of the various vicissitudes of his life,” the Most Rev. John Brungardt, bishop of the Dodge City Diocese, said in a statement posted on the diocese’s website.

“It is regretful that his life that held such promise and was filled with so many gifts came to end in the way that it did. May the Lord Marvin sought to praise and serve, continue to give him eternal rest and peace. May that same Lord grant comfort and consolation to his family and all of us who grieve for him.”

Reif was ordained on June 3, 1989, at Holy Family Parish in the Barton County town of Odin and served at several churches throughout the Dodge City Diocese before he was placed on an extended leave of absence for health issues, according to an article posted on the diocese’s website.

During his service “he was recognized and admired for his zeal for spreading the Gospel message. In his years of active service, Father Reif built a large contingent of friends and admirers,” the article said.

Reif disappeared after leaving Protection Valley Manor. He walked every day around town as part of his treatment, a spokesperson for the retirement home told The Eagle shortly after he went missing. He was reportedly suffering from depression.

Reif had been living at the retirement home for only a few months — since October 2016 — when he was let out of the locked building for a walk and didn’t return.

In addition to walking, he also liked to spend his days reading the Bible and feeding squirrels, a nurse who cared for him said in 2017.

Reif’s disappearance prompted a massive search party that included more than 100 people on horseback, in four-wheelers and in pick-up trucks. It also led the retirement home to require staff members accompany residents leaving the facility.

Protection, which has about 500 residents, is about 150 miles west of Wichita.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.