Former Aiken resident denied bond in Florida priest's slaying

Prosecutor gives details from case
Steven Murray: Man broke into homes with the priest in his trunk, a prosecutor said.

 

 

The former Aiken resident accused of murder in the fatal shooting of a Florida priest in April was denied bond Friday.

Steven J. Murray, 28, appeared briefly in Burke County Superior Court, where he could face trial on murder and other charges in the killing of the Rev. Rene Robert of St. Augustine, Fla. Murray will await possible indictment and trial in jail.

Investigators believe Murray borrowed Robert’s Toyota with the priest’s permission April 10. Later in the day, Robert, who was ministering Murray, agreed to go for a ride with him, said Assistant District Attorney Joanna Mastny. But Robert likely didn’t know Murray intended to drive to Aiken, Mastny said.

Murray drove to the Aiken home where his children live and demanded to see them, Mastny said. When he was denied, Murray returned to the vehicle and forced Robert into the trunk, she said. Murray then drove to homes and burglarized them, Mastny said.

Murray thought he was in Richmond County when he pulled off the side of the road and took Robert from the trunk, Mastny said. He was actually in Burke County, on River Road near a cross-section with a dirt road, Mastny said. He then fatally shot Robert at the road’s tree line, she said.

Murray then drove Rob­ert’s car back to Florida. On April 12, Murray is suspected of leading Florida police on a chase before eluding capture. On April 13, Murray was spotted in Aiken near Snipes Pond and Wire roads and was taken into custody after crashing Robert’s car. Inside the Toyota, Aiken law enforcement found items stolen in the burglaries committed two days earlier, Mastny said.

Murray waived extradition and back in St. Augus­tine, where police were still investigating Robert’s disappearance, Murray agreed to take officers to the body, Mastny said.

There is an indication Robert’s slaying was premeditated, Mastny said.

Murray has convictions for burglary in 2005, sale of stolen property in 2007, grand larceny in 2008, a weapon violation in 2009 and another conviction
for dealing in stolen property in Florida in
2012, Mastny said.

Defense attorney Khary Talley asked the judge to consider setting a reasonable bond for Murray, whom he described as a local
resident and father of two children.

Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr. denied bond, finding Murray could present a danger to people and property.

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