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Minister Cop Charged in Death

February 29, 2000

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) _ A police officer who was also a Baptist minister and was adored for helping poor children was charged with murder after police said he shot his mistress’ husband to death.

Paul Hurth, 44, was arrested and fired from the force Saturday, a week after Ralph Gawor was found shot to death at home. Hurth was to be arraigned Tuesday.

``It’s so hard to believe,″ said Anita Martinez, who credits Hurth with getting her a job as assistant manager of an apartment complex in the struggling Amber Way neighborhood. ``Anybody but Paul. Not Paul. He is such a sweet man.″

Hurth, the father of three children, was a fixture in Amber Way, finding teens jobs and bringing families bikes and trees at Christmas.

Gawor, 43, was last seen on Feb. 18 as he left his sales manager job at an auto dealership. His employers found his body at home the next day after he failed to show up at the office.

Investigators found no signs of forced entry or struggle and later discovered physical evidence linking Hurth to the scene, police Lt. John Fries said.

Gawor and his wife, Nancy, were married about 12 years and did not have children.

Hurth’s family referred all calls to his attorney, Ernest S. Kinney. He did not immediately return a phone call but told The Fresno Bee that his client ``was involved with the victim’s wife in a romantic relationship.″

``This appears to be an incredible tragedy because all the people involved are decent people,″ Kinney said. ``However, decent people can make tragic mistakes of judgment.″

The Gawors’ phone number was not listed and Mrs. Gawor could not be reached for comment Monday.

Hurth worked as a police chaplain for two years before he went to the police academy and became an officer in 1996, the same year he received the Agency Executive Director of the Year award from The New United Way of Fresno County and worked with a local YWCA to reduce domestic violence.

Four years ago, he began holding services for his Baptist congregation at the Lutheran Campus Ministry, through an informal arrangement with the pastor there, Don Romsa. Hurth attended every weekend with his wife and children, Romsa said.

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