Vehicle of missing St Augustine priest found in Aiken SC

STEVEN MURRAY

STEVEN MURRAY

Today, Historic City News has learned that authorities are still searching for 28-year-old Steven James Murray in connection with the suspicious disappearance of 71-year-old Fr. Rene W. Robert who lived in an apartment at 1845 Old Moultrie Road in St Augustine.

Fr. Robert went missing Sunday April 10th. His vehicle, a blue Toyota Corolla, was discovered Wednesday in Aiken, South Carolina, at a location where it appears to have been abandoned.

The St Johns County Sheriff’s Office believes that Murray had possession of Robert’s car; which they say he used to lead law enforcement officers on a two-county high-speed chase Tuesday.  Murray was able to avoid capture when he lost pursuing police units in heavy Jacksonville traffic.

FR RENE W ROBERT

FR RENE W ROBERT

Deputies obtained an arrest warrant charging Murray with aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude police, but Wednesday, Sheriff’s spokesman Commander Charles Mulligan told local reporters that law enforcement wants to question him about how he came to be in possession of the missing man’s vehicle.

Sheriff Shoar has dispatched St Johns County investigators to South Carolina to gather what evidence and additional clues they can from Fr. Robert’s abandoned vehicle. There are 25 investigators working on the case altogether.

  • According to the Diocese of St. Augustine, Fr. Robert was a retired senior priest who continued to work part-time in a reduced capacity. He primarily ministered to the deaf community, on a limited basis, at San Sebastian and St. Anastasia Catholic Church; however, part of his ministry included visits to jail inmates who he would counsel.
  • According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Murray was released from custody at the Duval County Jail on last Wednesday, April 6th, where he had been incarcerated for operating a vehicle with a suspended driver’s license and failure to appear in court. Murray has prior arrests in 2012 for burglary, dealing in stolen property, false verification of ownership as well as a fugitive warrant of extradition from Augusta, Georgia.

Commander Mulligan cannot speculate on whether Fr. Robert was acquainted with Murray, or if their paths had crossed in connection with Fr. Robert’s ministry — except to say that the priest’s disappearance appears to involve foul play.

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