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'He will be sorely missed:' Missing Florida priest's body found in Georgia

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'We believe Murray took advantage of his kindness.'

Church officials reported a Florida priest went missing last week. After following a trail of clues, investigators believe they found Rev. Rene Robert's body in Georgia.

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Catholic Online (
4/20/2016 (6 years ago)

Published in Vocations

Keywords: Florida priest, Rev. Rene Robert, Georgia, body, discovered

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When church officials noticed Rev. Robert missed a funeral in what was described as "uncharacteristic and not in keeping with his normal activities," the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office decided to check on Rev. Robert's apartment.

They discovered an empty apartment and his vehicle missing.

The next day, Rev. Robert's car was discovered in Florida but was driven by 28-year-old Steven James Murray, who was later described as a "career criminal" and "sociopath."

A car chase ensued but Murray lost the police, leaving authorities no choice but to obtain an arrest warrant and continue their search.

The same day, Robert's car was discovered abandoned in Aiken, South Carolina.

The following morning, Murray was arrested in a wooded area near the abandoned vehicle. Though he lived in South Carolina, St. Johns sheriff's Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan explained Murray knew Rev. Robert through family in Florida.

Mulligan stated, "We believe Murray took advantage of his kindness." The following message was released on the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Facebook page:

Two days following Murray's arrest, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office joined the manhunt for Rev. Robert. It wasn't until Monday, April 18 that Murray agreed to lead officers to Rev. Robert's remains.

Murray led them to Burke County, Georgia, where remains believed to belong to Rev. Robert are currently awaiting positive identification.

Sheriff Shoar, of St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, held a news conference Thursday afternoon and shared that he knew Rev. Robert, who performed baptisms and marriage ceremonies within Shoar's family's history.

On Facebook, Shoar wrote: "Laura and I have known Father Rene since he arrived here. ... I join many others within our community who were touched by Father Rene over the years and extend my condolences to his family and friends.

"He will be sorely missed. I am confident that all of the investigators will continue their hard work in seeking a successful prosecution of this heinous act."

Shoar added that Murray will be charged with first-degree murder in Georgia "in the coming days."


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