The ending that many expected, but held out hope against confirming, was revealed tonight when St Johns County Sheriff David Shoar announced to Historic City News and the media that the body of 71-year-old retired priest, Fr. Rene Robert, was recovered in Burke County, Georgia.
The assailant is said to be 28-year-old Steven James Murray; the man in possession of the 2012 blue Toyota Corolla owned by Fr. Robert, and person who led detectives to the site where his body was recovered.
“The body was found four miles off Highway 56 around 7:30 p.m. tonight in Waynesboro, Georgia,” Shoar told local reporters. “Fr. Rene was obviously the victim of homicidal violence, but this is not the ending I wanted to report to you today.”
Investigators from St. Johns and Duval counties traveled to Georgia with Murray in a patrol car so that he could direct them in their search. It was becoming clear that several large scale searches conducted on tips and information received during the course of the investigation were not going to be successful.
According to Sheriff Shoar, detectives established a rapport with Murray after traveling to Aiken, South Carolina, to serve him with an arrest warrant and transport him back to St Johns County.
Father Rene was last seen Sunday, April 10 and Sheriff Shoar said he was likely killed between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. that night. He was going to visit a patient at Orange Park Medical Center that afternoon.
Investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Burke County Sheriff’s Office are currently being briefed on what Florida detectives have learned so far. The State of Georgia will be leading the murder prosecution in this case.
Tonight, Fr. Robert’s brother told reporters that he thanked Murray for at least leading them to his remains so that they could find some sense of closure. “I don’t forgive him, and I’ll probably have a fight with my brother about that when I see him again one day,” he said.
This afternoon, Murray led detectives to several locations involved in this case to include the location where a body was found.
“This complex investigation, that spanned three states and numerous counties, revealed an exemplary cooperation between many investigators and departments,” Shoar concluded.