Friday, April 20, 2012

Former church janitor sentenced to life in prison in 2009 stabbing death of NJ priest

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) -- A former church janitor was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the 2009 stabbing death of a beloved New Jersey priest who had fired him.

Jose Feliciano declined to comment before he was sentenced for the death of Rev. Edward Hinds at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Chatham.

Prosecutors said Hinds fired Feliciano after discovering the janitor had an outstanding arrest warrant in Philadelphia from the 1980s for sexually touching a child. They said Feliciano stabbed Hinds more than 30 times as the 61-year-old priest, in his clerical robes, was brewing a cup of coffee in the rectory kitchen.

Hinds' body was found when he didn't show up for Mass.

Feliciano, of Easton, Pa., testified for eight days during his trial in state Superior Court in Morristown. He admitted killing the priest but said he acted in a fit of rage over sexual blackmail. He testified Hinds had demanded sex in exchange for keeping quiet about the warrant. Several witnesses testified that Feliciano never mentioned the alleged sexual overtures.

In December, a jury found Feliciano guilty of murder, felony murder, two counts of robbery and two weapons counts.

Both men were well-known members of the church community, and the killing shook the parish and the well-to-do suburb of Chatham, a northern New Jersey community about 20 miles west of Manhattan. It was the first violent death there since a 1990 manslaughter case.

Feliciano had worked at the parish since 1991. Prosecutors said he used aliases and fake identification over the years to hide his past.

Associated Press

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