Plea in murder case from unlikely spot: the victim, a priest

Published 9:15 am Monday, January 30, 2017

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The Rev. Rene Robert devoted his life to helping society’s most troubled, working with drug addicts and criminals, and even signing a “Declaration of Life” that called for his killer to be spared execution in the event of his murder.

More than two decades after filing that document, his wish will be tested.

Robert’s body — shot multiple times — was found in the Georgia woods last year after a multistate manhunt led to the arrest of Steven Murray, a repeat offender Robert had been trying to help for months. Police said Murray asked the 71-year-old priest for a ride in Jacksonville, Florida, then kidnapped him and drove him across the state line. Days later, Murray led officers to the priest’s body, police said.

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Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty if Murray is convicted of murder, citing the slaying’s aggravated nature. That decision was based on the facts alone, Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ashley Wright told The Associated Press.

“We don’t look at whether the victim is a priest, a nun, a philanthropist, a drug dealer or something else,” she said.