Police: Body of missing Florida priest found in Georgia

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Body of missing priest found

ATLANTA, April 19 (Reuters) - Law enforcement officials worked on Tuesday to identify what they believed to be the body of a priest who was kidnapped in Florida and found dead in Georgia.

The weeklong search for Father Rene Robert, 71, was called off Monday night after the suspect in the case helped investigators find a body in rural Burke County, Georgia, near the South Carolina border, Sheriff David Shoar of St. Johns County, Florida, said at a news conference.

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Robert, a senior priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida, had been missing since April 10, the day authorities believe he was kidnapped, according to a statement from the sheriff on Facebook. Robert was reported missing on April 12.

Steven James Murray, 28, was driving Robert's Toyota Corolla when law enforcement tracked him to Aiken, South Carolina, and arrested him on April 13 on warrants unrelated to the current case, Shoar said.

Murray is being held without bond in Florida on a fugitive warrant but Shoar said he expects to charge Murray soon with kidnapping. Jail records did not list a lawyer for him.

Murray also will face homicide charges in Georgia, where the slaying is believed to have occurred, the sheriff said.

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Police: Body of missing Florida priest found in Georgia
FILE - These undated handout file photos provided by the FBI show Amanda Berry, left, and Georgina "Gina" Dejesus. Ohio State Rep. John Barnes Jr. wants the state to provide years of relief payments and a free ride to college for the three Cleveland women abducted and held in captivity for about a decade. Barnes Jr. is introducing his Survivors of Abduction Act on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. It would provide Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight at least $25,000 a year in reparations for the years they were restrained and tuition, fees and living expenses at a public college. (AP Photo/FBI, File)
CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 7: In this handout provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Georgina DeJesus poses for an undated photo. DeJesus was one of three women who believed to have been held captive for almost a decade in a home in Cleveland, Ohio. Amanda Berry, who went missing in 2003, Gina DeJesus, who went missing in 2004, and Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002, managed to escape their captors on May 6, 2013. Three suspects, all brothers, were taken into custody. (Photo by FBI via Getty Images)
Images from the video provided by Hennes Paynter Communications shows from left: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade broke their public silence in a 3-minute, 30-second video posted on YouTube at midnight Monday July 8, 2013. They said the support and prayers of family, friends and the public is allowing them to rebuild their lives after what Berry called "this entire ordeal." (AP Photo/Hennes Paynter Communications)
FILE- This file still frame made from the video posted July 8, 2013, provided by Hennes Paynter Communications shows Amanda Berry in a YouTube video in which three women held captive in a Cleveland home for a decade broke their public silence about their experience. Berry made a surprise appearance at the daylong concert RoverFest in Cleveland on Saturday night, July 27, 2013. The 27-year-old Berry walked on stage with her family and waved at the cheering crowd. The rapper Nelly called Berry back to the stage after his music set. (AP Photo/Hennes Paynter Communications, File)
A "Welcome Home Gina " sign hangs on a fence outside the home of Gina DeJesus Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in Cleveland. DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, who went missing separately about a decade ago, were found in a home just south of downtown Cleveland and likely had been tied up during years of captivity, said police, who arrested three brothers. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 7: Demoliton crews clean up the remains of Ariel Castro's home after it was torn down on August 7, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. The State of Ohio leveled Castro's home less than one week after Castro was sentenced to life in prison with no parole plus one thousand years for abducting three young women between 2002 and 2004. The women escaped this past May. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 1: Michelle Knight waits to address the court during the trial of Ariel Castro on August 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. Knight was abducted, along with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, by Castro and held captive for 11 years. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 1: Ariel Castro pleads to Judge Michael Russo during his sentencing on August 1, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. Castro se,ntenced to life without parole plus one thousand years for abducting three women between 2002 and 2004 when they were between 14 and 21 years old. Castro told Judge Michael Russo, "I'm not a monster, I'm sick...I'm a happy person inside." (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - MAY 10: Amanda Berry was believed to have been kidnapped by Ariel Castro in April of 2003 from this Burger King where she worked. Information is still surfacing regarding the decade-long saga of three kidnapped Cleveland women and their amazing rescue. Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
FILE - In this May 6, 2013 family handout photo, Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital Monday. Ariel Castro, 53, serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and rape of Berry and two other women, was found hanging in his cell, Tuesday night, Sept. 3, 2013, at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio. (AP Photo/Family Handout courtesy WOIO-TV, File)
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Officials did not discuss a motive. Shoar said Robert appeared to have met Murray through a ministry in Florida where the priest helped former inmates find work.

"I know Father Rene was one of the better angels," Shoar said during the news conference.

Agent Scott Dutton of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said in a phone interview that the agency will conduct an autopsy of the body in Atlanta as soon as Wednesday to identify the victim and determine the cause of death. (Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)

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