Authorities wrap up pretrial investigation of Chatham priest slaying

| July 29, 2010

With most of the pretrial investigation finished, a Morris County assistant prosecutor is hoping to bring Jose Feliciano to trial in the winter of 2011 for the murder of Chatham priest the Rev. Edward Hinds.

"Most of the loose ends have been tied up," with 4,000 pages of information provided to the defense, Assistant Prosecutor John McNamara Jr. said during a hearing today before Judge Thomas Manahan in Morristown. The "discovery" phase of the case will be concluded by Sept. 1, he said.

Feliciano, 64, of Easton, Pa., who was the longtime janitor at St. Patrick Church in Chatham, is accused of murdering Hinds, the pastor, by stabbing him 32 times with a knife in the parish rectory on Oct. 22.

Feliciano has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, public defender Neill Hamilton, said today he is awaiting the selection of a psychiatrist so Feliciano can be evaluated.

McNamara said his remaining task during "discovery" is to obtain information from Pennsylvania officials under a statute allowing investigation of uncharged prior bad acts. "The defendant was a fugitive from the state of Pennsylvania at the time of the murder," McNamara said.

Hinds was attempting to comply with efforts by the Diocese of Paterson to ensure all parishes and schools complied with diocesan policies on criminal background checks. After Hinds discovered the requisite check had not been made on Feliciano, the chain of events was set in motion that revealed the Pennsylvania issues and led Feliciano to murder Hinds, authorities have said.

Feliciano had been wanted in Philadelphia on a charge of indecent assault of a minor from 1988 and had been using several false names and Social Security numbers over the years, authorities have said.

Meanwhile, McNamara said he has extended a plea offer to the defense. The prosecution is willing to drop a "finding of aggravating factors" from the indictment if Feliciano pleads guilty to murder and robbery, McNamara said. Feliciano could receive a sentence allowing parole eligibility if the aggravating factors are dropped.

"We’ll give it some thought," Hamilton said of the offer.

Manahan scheduled the next pretrial conference for Sept. 8.

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Category: Church Security

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