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UPDATE | Accused priest killer Steven Murray back in court

(WRDW)
Published: Apr. 18, 2016 at 9:37 PM EDT
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Monday, Jan. 9, 2017

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of killing a Florida priest and dumping his body in the woods is back in court.

Murray is expected to go before a judge at 2 p.m. Monday in Waynesboro. The last time Steven Murray was in court back in September, he pleaded not guilty.

In April 2016, investigators said he confessed to killing Father Rene Robert, then led them to his body in the woods in Burke County.

Murray has moved jails several times after reported suicide attempts and vandalism.


News 12 NBC 26 / Friday, Sept. 16, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of killing a Florida priest and dumping his body in the woods says he's not guilty.

Steven James Murray was back in a Burke County courtroom Friday morning to enter that plea. It's a very different tune than just six months ago when investigators say he confessed to the homicide of Father Rene Robert, a Catholic priest from St. Augustine.

Even if he confessed, now it has to be proven in a court of law.

It's another day, another disposition for the man accused of murdering the man of God. Friday Steven Murray's attitude wasn't so humble. As deputies led him out, he said this to our camera.

"Tell the world I say f*** 'em," Murray said.

He hasn't always been so blunt. In past hearings, he's asked for forgiveness, even show regret.

"I have mental problems and I lost control of myself and I apologize," Murray said back in April.

Friday he sat in a Burke County courtroom quiet except for two words.

"How is your plea today?" Judge James Blanchard asked.

"Not guilty," Murray replied, nearly speaking over his attorney.

"Mr. Murray's going to enter a not guilty plea this morning," his attorney echoed.

Today Murray claims he's innocent, but back in April, investigators say he confessed to the homicide before leading them to the priest's body in the woods.

What he said could come back and hurt his guilty claim, but we won't know what until the trial, and District Attorney Ashley Wright says that's probably still two years away. Until then, deputies will keep driving from the Clayton County Jail to Burke County for each hearing.

The next hearing is scheduled for December 2nd.


Friday, Sept. 26, 2016 |

UPDATE: 10:29 a.m.

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A man accused of killing a Florida priest has entered a not guilty plea.

Steven Murray pleaded not guilty and asked for additional time to file motions, according to our reporter in the courtroom. The district attorney said they'll be able to provide their first part of discovery at the end of next week.

The next hearing is set for Dec. 2, 2016. District Attorney Ashley Wright thinks it will be 2 years before a trial date. Wright said even if Murray admitted to killing Father Rene Robert to investigators, he has not admitted anything in court.

If the judge deems what he said to investigators admissible, it could be brought up in court, Wright said.


Friday, Sept. 26, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A man charged with killing a Florida priest will be back in court.

Steven Murray will make his plea before a judge starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Murray faces murder charges in Father Rene Robert's death in April. Investigators say Robert was counseling Murray in Florida.

Murray allegedly forced Robert into his car, and drove to Burke County where he shot and killed him. Murray later led deputies to Robert's body in the woods.

News 12 NBC 26 will be in the courtroom and will bring you the latest.


Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of killing Florida priest Father Rene Robert back in April tried to kill himself.

The Burke County Sheriff's Office says Steven Murray unsuccessfully attempted to hang himself in his jail cell over the weekend.

This is not the first time Murray has tried to commit suicide in prison, Burke County Jail has reported another similar attempt back in May.

Murray admitted to shooting Father Rene Robert back in April and later led investigators to his body in the woods.


Monday, Aug. 15, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A local man accused of killing a Florida priest is back in court, and will face a Burke County judge Monday.

Steven Murray is expected to enter a plea in his death penalty case at 2 p.m.

Murray has been held in a Clayton County Jail, but will be transported back to Burke County for the hearing.

Murray admitted to shooting Father Rene Robert back in April and later led investigators to his body in the woods.

News 12 NBC 26 will be in the courtroom and will keep you updated on the latest.


Monday, July 18, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Accused priest-killer Steven Murray will face a judge.

The arraignment will be held Monday, August 15, at 2:30 p.m. at the Burke County Courthouse.

Murray has been held in the Clayton County Jail, and will be transported back to Burke County for the hearing.

Murray is facing charges for shooting and killing Father Rene Robert back in April. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The district attorney's office has said an arraignment for accused priest-killer Steven Murray has not been set.

Since prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, there will be a separate hearing scheduled. He will be transported back from Clayton County to Burke County for the hearing, according to the district attorney's office.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016 | UPDATE:

12:08 p.m.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said charges will be unlikely against Steven Murray after reports that he damaged his jail cell.

The sheriff's office said the amount of damage Murray did to his cell will not cost more than $150 to repair and they will take all expenses rather then bill Burke County.

Steven Murray was moved back to Burke County from Jefferson County after that damage to his cell. He was originally transferred from Burke County after authorities say he tried to hang himself.

The Georgia Sheriff's Association said they received a request for Murray to be transferred to another jail after damages in Burke County and Jefferson County jails.

Within 24-hours, Clayton County jail responded. He was transferred to their facility Monday night.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- After only a weekend in Burke County, Steven Murray, the man accused of murdering a Florida priest, has been moved again to Clayton County Jail.

Murray was brought to the Burke County Jail on Saturday. Burke County Sheriff's Office confirms that a deputy drove him to Clayton County on Monday night.

Steven Murray was previously being held in the Jefferson County Jail where he pulled a metal drain pipe connected to the toilet loose, as well as damaging a sprinkler head resulting in the flooding of his cell.


Monday, June 20, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- The man accused of murdering a Florida priest has been moved back to the Burke County Jail.

Steven Murray was previously being held in the Jefferson County Jail where he pulled a metal drain pipe connected to the commode loose, as well as damaging a sprinkler head resulting in the flooding of his cell.

Murray is facing charges for shooting and killing Father Rene Robert back in April.


UPDATE: Saturday, June 4, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of murdering a Florida priest has been moved to Jefferson County Jail.

Burke County Sheriff Coursey tells News 12 NBC 26 Steven Murray was moved from the Burke County Jail to the Jefferson County Jail near Louisville around 6:30 last night.

According to the sheriff, Murray is on suicide watch, even though Murray reportedly tells the sheriff he is not suicidal. On Tuesday, May 31, Murray reportedly tried to hang himself in his jail cell.

Murray is facing charges for shooting and killing Father Rene Robert back in April. Burke County deputies say Murray left Father Robert's body by the side of a road in Burke County.


UPDATE: Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The man accused of ending the life of a Florida priest tries to take his own life.

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey told News 12 NBC 26 Steven Murray hung himself around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Sheriff Coursey says Murray's suicide attempt was not successful. Deputies took Murray to the hospital to be checked out before returning him to the jail.

Murray is currently in jail accused of shooting and killing Father Rene Robert in April. Burke County deputies say Murray left Father Robert's body by the side of a road in Burke County.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

UPDATE: 5:00 p.m.

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- District Attorney Ashley Wright has filed a letter of intent to seek the death penalty in Steven Murray's murder case.

Here is a copy of what the District Attorney wrote in her letter about why she is seeking the death penalty in Father Rene Robert's death:

"NOW COMES the State of Georgia and files notice of its intention to seek the imposition of the death penalty for the charges of murder as set forth in the above-referenced indictment based upon the following statutory aggravating circumstances: 1.) The offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of another capital felony, to wit: Kidnapping with Bodily Injury. 2.) The offense of murder was committed while the offender was engaged in the commission of an Aggravated Battery. 3.) The offender committed the offense of murder for himself or another, for the purpose of receiving money or any other thing of monetary value. 4.) The offense of murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible, or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind, or an aggravated battery to the victim."

News 12 NBC 26 has learned Steven Murray, the man accused of killing Father Rene Robert, has been indicted by a grand jury on three counts of murder, one count of possession of a firearm during a crime, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

We'll continue to update this with more information.


Friday, May 13, 2016 News 12 NBC 26 at 6 O'Clock

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The murder of a Florida priest wasn't a crime of passion or the result of some argument. The District Attorney's Office says Murray's decision to murder Father Rene Robert was premeditated.

District Attorney's Office says Steven Murray borrowed Father Rene Robert's car and asked the Priest to ride along to get his children.

"Mr. Murray asked the victim to ride with him. He continued to drive the priests car and they got on the interstate. The victim asked where they were heading and learned for the first time leaving Florida to get to South Carolina," a prosecutor from the District Attorney's Office said.

Now Murray returns to the Burke County Jail as GBI continue to build their case against him.

"We're going to document this investigation," GBI Special Agent in Charge Pat Morgan said, "We're going to make sure every T's crossed I's dotted to make sure that the best file is prepared and the case is prepared for prosecution."

Agent Pat Morgan says they still need to meet with the different sheriff offices involved including Aiken County. He says there is no definitive timeline though when they'll be done.

"We like to think that we do it in a timely manner, but I just can't tell you how quick it can be," Morgan said, "We may go follow up with one of those departments and say oh my goodness there are 3 or 4 more things we need to follow up on."

The district attorney says Murray was getting help from Father Robert at the time and told him to get in the trunk after he was denied his children. The district attorney says Murray shot Father Robert along the tree line near Plant Vogtle. They said Murray was dealing with mental health issues just as Murray has claimed. But Murray did not say anything himself today.


Friday, May 13, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A judge denied bond to Steven Murray, who is charged with murdering Father Rene Robert.

During a bond hearing, the district attorney said Father Robert was ministering Murray and gave him permission to use his car. The district attorney said Murray drove to South Carolina to try and get his children back but he was denied access to them.

In the hearing, the district attorney said Murray told Father Robert to get in the trunk of his car, then committed multiple firearm burglaries. Finally, the attorney said Murray took Father Robert into the wood line and shot him.

Later, they said Murray went to Aiken County where he was found and arrested by Aiken County deputies.

The District Attorney said the murder was premeditated and Murray is a significant flight risk and threat to the community.

Murray's lawyer argued that his entire life is in the CSRA including his two children, ages 12 and 13. His lawyer requested bond so Murray could take care of his mental health.

The judge denied Murray bond.


Monday, May 9, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Steven Murray, the man accused of killing Father Rene Robert, has a bond hearing May 13.

According to the Burke County Superior Court calendar, Murray's bond hearing is scheduled for May 13 at 2:30 p.m. Murray is charged with murder.


3:35 P.M.

THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The GBI says they will process Father Rene Robert's car.

The Aiken County Sheriff's Office had the car after it was found in the county. That car has been transported from Aiken County to the GBI where agents will process it.

Special Agent Pat Morgan says they need to go through some files from Florida, including interviews and a timeline of the case.

Investigators say they are giving the St. John's Sheriff's Office time to get all of that information together. Once it is compiled they will go through it and possibly interview people again.

Once the GBI's investigation is complete, they will turn the case over to the district attorney.

Agents say they do not know how long this process will take.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

ATLANTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- GBI Agents say the body investigators found in Burke County off has been positively identified as Father Rene Robert.

Deputies charged Steven Murray with malice murder in connection to Father Rene Robert's death. Investigators say Murray led them to Father Robert's body on Monday night.

The autopsy results indicated Father Robert had died from multiple gun shot wounds. Investigators could not make a positive identification without dental records because of the condition of the body.


4:01

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Steven Murray, the man charged with malice murder in connection to a Florida priest, spoke to reporters after his bond hearing.

Murray said to reporters, "I'm sorry please forgive me. If ya'll love him then forgive me cause he was a man of God. I'm very sorry. If anyone really loves Father Rene then they'll forgive me because he was a man of God and forgiveness is forgiveness."

Murray also commented on his own mental health to reporters. "I have mental problems and I lost control of myself and I apologize. Forgive me," he said.

Murray repeatedly asked for forgiveness while talking to reporters after his bond hearing. A third time he said, "I'm sorry please forgive me. if ya'll love him then you'll forgive me cause he was a man of God."


2:51

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A Burke County judge has denied bond to Steven Murray.

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey announced Murray was being charged with malice murder on Wednesday.


2:30

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Burke County Sheriff's Office has formally charged Steven Murray with Malice Murder.

During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey said they could not positively identify the body found Monday night as Father Rene Robert. He said because of the condition of the body they need dental records to make a positive identification.

The sheriff said preliminary reports showed the cause of death was homicide by multiple gunshot wounds.

GBI Agent Pat Morgan said they hope to have a positive identification on the body later today or on Thursday.

Agent Morgan could not comment on what Murray said during interviews with the GBI, but he did say Murray was relaxed and did answer their questions.

Murray will now go to court to make his first appearance.


UPDATE

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Burke County Sheriff, Greg Coursey, plans to make a statement at 1:30 Wednesday afternoon.

The sheriff will be addressing the death investigation on Father Rene Robert.

News 12 NBC 26 will have a crew at the press release and will keep you updated on this story.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

UPDATE: 4:20 p.m.

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Steven Murray is going back to the Burke County Jail after being questioned by the GBI.

Pat Morgan of the GBI says Murray is being transported from the GBI in Thomson back to Burke County.

Morgan says GBI Investigators will be in Burke County again on Wednesday.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

UPDATE: 4:20 p.m.

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The suspect in the death of Father Rene Robert is now in the custody of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Steven Murray was transported from the Burke County Jail to the GBI in Thomson around lunch time to talk with GBI investigators about the case, the GBI confirms. A GBI spokesperson could not confirm how long Murray would be speaking with investigators.

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey says the GBI told them Monday night that Father Robert's body was believed to be in Burke County. Then, around 7:20 Monday night, they received the call that the body was found at the back of the Mixon Cemetery Property.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Father Rene Robert's body was found Monday night along Highway 56 in the Northern part of Burke County.

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey says Robert's body was found a half-mile off the road. Robert's body was found near a woodline, not buried. Coursey will not release how Robert was killed.

Coursey says suspect Steven Murray has relatives in the area, so he was familiar with the road. Coursey says a warrant for felony murder is in the works, but has not been served yet. For now, Murray will remain in jail in Burke County. Murray has a bond hearing at 2 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The body of a Florida priest was found about 20 minutes away from Plant Vogtle, according to the Burke County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office confirms Father Rene Robert's body was found near the Mixon Cemetery off River Road.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The body of a man the Burke County Sheriff's office believes to be a missing Florida priest has been found along route to Plant Vogtle.

The body was found on the 56 spur area that is near the International Paper property.

According to Pat Morgan with the GBI, an autopsy of Father Robert's body is scheduled for tomorrow in Atlanta.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW) -- The suspect linked to the death of the Florida missing priest is now in custody at the Burke County Jail, according to the Burke County Sheriff's Office.

According to the sheriff's office, Steven Murray is expected to be transported the Thomson GBI office for questioning Tuesday.

We are working to find out if any new charges have been filed.


Monday, April 18, 2016

UPDATE: 11:13 P.M.

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The suspect in the missing priest case, Steven Murray, reportedly led detectives to several locations Monday including the place where human remains believed to belong to Father Rene Robert were found, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff.

In a news conference Monday night, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar says Robert's body still needs to be identified by Georgia investigators.

Shoar believes the homicide happened in Georgia between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday, April 10. By the time chase through Aiken County happened, Robert was believed to already have been killed.

Officials say charges of kidnapping are expected to come out of Duvall County, FL, while possible charges would come from Georgia.

Check back for updates.


BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) The Burke County Sheriff confirms a body believed to be Father Rene Robert has been found in a wooded area four miles off Hwy 56 on Hwy 56 Spur.

Investigators from St. Johns County and Duvall County are with Burke County deputies on the scene.

The body will be transported to the GBI crime lab in Atlanta​ for autopsy.

The sheriff was not ready to confirm how they found the body.

Father Rene Robert was last seen around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Investigators arrested Steven Murray in Aiken County early Thursday morning in connection to his disappearance. Murray was extradited back to Florida on Friday.

Late Monday afternoon, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced the end of the search effort for Father Rene Robert on Jacksonville's westside.