Police: Body of missing Florida priest found in Georgia

Body of missing priest found
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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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)