Slain pastor's son accused of killing parents, 5-year-old brother

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |
Rev. Israel Ahimbisibwe, 52, was pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Houston and a graduate of Harvard, Princeton and Rice universities. | Episcopal Diocese of Texas

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – A pastor's son was arrested Feb. 4 as the prime suspect in the brutal triple murder of his parents and 5-year-old brother in Houston.

Isaac Tiharihondi, 19, was taken into custody in Jackson, Mississippi, by FBI agents and was charged today with two counts of capital murder. He is awaiting extradition to Texas.

Israel Ahimbisibwe, 52, Tiharihondi's father, was pastor of Church of the Redeemer and serving as a chaplain at the University of Houston. According to a local media report describing the chain of events, church members went to the family's apartment after the pastor failed to show up for services on Sunday.

Authorities are now reporting Pastor Ahimibisibwe, his wife, Dorcas, and their young son, Israel Ahimibisibwe Jr., may have been dead for almost a week by the time their bodies were discovered inside the apartment.

Investigators reported last time anyone had seen the slain family members alive was on Jan. 27.

Episcopal Diocese of Texas

Tiharihondi was said to have told church members at his father's congregation that he made plans to enlist in the Marine Corps, but recruiters reported having no record of him expressing interest.

The suspect's 17-year-old brother Emmanuel, who attends boarding school in California, according to court records, told investigators his mother did not believe Tiharihondi was being truthful about his plans to enlist and she and his father were going to confront him about it.

According to court documents, the child's body was in the bathtub in one part of the apartment and his parents' bodies were found in a back room. The pastor and his wife apparently were beaten to death with a baseball bat, while the child suffered stab wounds to his neck and back. There were no signs of forced entry, and the parents' wallets were found open and missing credit cards.

Tiharihondi paid for the motel room in Mississippi with his father's credit card, according to reports.


Ordained in the Church in Uganda, Ahimbisibwe came to the United States to study at Harvard Divinity School in the 2000s, and holds masters degrees from Harvard and Princeton Theological Seminary, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. After completing graduate research at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he earned an additional masters and doctorate from Rice University.

A prayer vigil at Holy Spirit School, where Ahimbisibwe previously served as an assistant and taught Christian education, was held Monday night, Feb. 2, with Bishop Andy Doyle leading the congregation in prayer.

At the service, Doyle told local news media the pastor was "very kind and gentle with everybody" and would be missed.

"He is a great example of the clergy of this city," Doyle said, "and I think that is part of what is so sad."

Rick Watkins, who has known the slain pastor for years, called him a "treasure."

"There's not anybody here tonight who is not just heartbroken over this horrible event," Watkins told local media, calling the pastor one of the "most well educated" people he has ever met, in terms of Scripture.

Doyle released the following statement after Tiharihondi's arrest:

As a Christian community, let us pray for Emmanuel and Isaac as they journey through this time of grief and sorrow.

Let us also pray for our courts and our prisons, that all involved will be given clarity of mind, peace and wisdom.

Our Book of Common Prayer reminds us to 'pray that any that are held unjustly be released and that those who are guilty find repentance and amendment of life.'

We follow a God in Jesus Christ who is present with those who suffer.

Let us be faithful to the God of love and forgiveness.

Prayer services also were held Tuesday, Feb. 3, at University of Houston, and in Austin, Texas at Christ Chapel at the Seminary of the Southwest; and at Rice University Chapel, Thursday, Feb. 5.

Funeral arrangements are pending and a fund has been established for the Ahimbisibwe family, according to the diocese.