A Florida priest murdered last year has appealed from beyond the grave for his killer to be shown mercy.
The body of 71-year-old Fr, Rene Robert was found riddled with bullets in woods in Georgia in April 2016. Authorities say he was killed by, Steven Murray, a man whom he had been trying to help for months.
Fr. Robert devoted his life to helping society’s most troubled people, including convicts and the mentally afflicted. Because of the area of his ministry, Fr. Robert foresaw a scenario in which he may be the victim of violence.
In 1995, the priest signed a “Declaration of Life” document, which was witnessed and notarized by a lawyer. In this letter. Fr. Robert wrote: “I request that the person found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstances.”
In total devotion to life, Fr. Robert, in his letter, requested that whoever took his life be spared execution “no matter how heinous their crime or how much I may have suffered”.
At his insistence, the note was put into his personnel file with diocese so that it may be found if the situation ever arose.
“He was well aware for the potential violence that might involve his ministry, but he cared for those people nonetheless,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory.
The archbishop himself joined members of the clergy who rallied outside the court in Augusta, Georgia. They delivered a petition by more than 7,400 people from Fr. Robert’s diocese asking that his wishes be honored.
The accused murderer, Steven Murray, had asked the priest for a ride to Jacksonville, Florida, before abducting and murdering him, according to charges. The day after Fr. Robert was reported missing, Murray was apprehended while driving the priest’s blue Toyota Corolla in South Carolina. Murray then led police to the priest’s body.
During a court appearance shortly after his arrest, Murray said “If anybody loves Father Rene, they’ll forgive me because he was a man of God, and forgiveness is forgiveness. I have mental problems and I lost control of myself. I apologize.”