News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Man Faces Charges Connected To Missing, Possibly Dead Priest

ATLANTA (AP) — Multiple charges have been filed against a man described as a "career criminal" who led authorities to a body believed to be that of a missing Florida priest, authorities said Wednesday.

Steve James Murray, 28, of Jacksonville, Florida, is charged with possession of firearm or ammunition by a person convicted of a violent felony and with receiving stolen goods. Aiken County Sheriff's Office Capt. Eric Abdullah released the arrest warrant Wednesday.

Police say Murray knew the Rev. Rene Wayne Robert of St. Augustine, Florida, and led authorities to the body in woods near Waynesboro, Georgia.

Murray was arrested in South Carolina while driving the priest's Toyota Corolla.

The arrest warrant says Murray possessed several firearms including a double-barrel shotgun, a pump-action rifle and several BB guns. Murray also had jewelry, cash, medication and merchandise that had been reported stolen.

Meanwhile, an autopsy on the remains was planned Wednesday in Georgia, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.

Robert, 71, a Roman Catholic priest, was reported missing April 12 after not showing up for an appointment. He was a priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine.

Robert had dedicated his life to working with prisoners and society's downtrodden, a calling that police say put him in contact with his killer. Police said Robert may have been trying to help Murray, who was recently released from jail.

Authorities believe the suspect kidnapped the priest, took him to Georgia in his own car and killed him there, but the motive for the slaying remains unclear. It's believed that Robert was introduced to Murray by a young woman the priest had been counseling.

Murray was arrested April 13 and returned to St. Augustine two days later on charges of fleeing and attempting to elude law enforcement officers and on being a fugitive. He then was transported to Georgia but it was not immediately clear to what jail.

Officials say Murray likely will face murder charges in Georgia, where Robert's body was found.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar in Florida called Murray a "career criminal." He was released from the Duval County Jail in Jacksonville on April 6 following a March 22 arrest for operating a vehicle with a suspended license. Shoar said Murray also broke into homes in South Carolina before his arrest, and was found with multiple guns including a rifle with a scope.

The Associated Press is a wire service to which WUFT News subscribes.