A priest has forgiven his murderer from beyond the grave, and the pardon may spare him the death penalty.
Fr. Robert Renee met Steven Murray as part of his prison ministry. Fr. Renee worked to help Murray the same as he worked to help so many other troubled people during his 35 years of service in the town of St. Augustine, Florida.
In April 2016, for reasons that have never been fully explained, Murray kidnapped Fr. Renee driving with him from Florida to Georgia. He eventually murdered the priest and hid his body.
Police soon tracked down Murray along with Fr. Renee’s car. Murray quickly confessed and told police where they could find the body.
At a court hearing in April, Murray expressed remorse. “I’m very sorry, and if anybody really loves Fr. 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, and I apologize.”
The remorseful acknowledgement and apology did not phase the prosecutor who vowed to seek the death penalty. Ashley Wright, the district attorney said it did not matter who the victim was and added she is not allowed to make decisions based on public opinion.
Murray was doomed. But shortly afterward a miracle occurred. Murray’s plea to be spared the death penalty has a surprise advocate –his victim.
Back in 1995, Fr. Renee wrote a statement asking that should he be murdered, his killer must be spared the death penalty. He even had a lawyer notarize the document.
The document reads: “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, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I may have suffered.”
It’s a remarkable find that has already persuaded several people including Fr. Renee’s sister, Deborah Bedard. Bedard initially said she supported the death penalty for Murray, but she doesn’t anymore. “I feel like that was an act of God. I’m praying for a miracle, and God’s got it in His hands.”
Other friends and the community at large seems to side with Fr. Renee’s wishes. While Murray clearly deserves the death penalty under U.S. law, many believe the victim’s wishes ought to be respected.
The Catholic Church is opposed to the death penalty for several reasons, particularly because there are concerns over how fairly and justly it is applied in the United States.
So far, the prosecutor has no plans to relent, and Murray still faces the death penalty. The jury and the judge will have the final say. It will be up to them to decide is Fr. Renee’s wishes are respected, or not.
By Marshall Connolly