Church janitor arrested in killing of popular Chatham priest

| October 24, 2009

Authorities say a beloved Roman Catholic priest was killed by the janitor of his own church, who stabbed him 32 times with a kitchen knife and left him dead in the rectory of St. Patrick's Church in Chatham Borough.

Police arrested Jose Feliciano, 64, today in Easton, Pa. and charged him with the murder of Father Edward Hinds. Authorities said Feliciano got into an argument with Hinds at the rectory at five p.m. on Friday. Feliciano then grabbed a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed the pastor, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said.

Father Edward HindsParishioners of St. Patrick's Church in Chatham quietly leave at the conclusion of the Saturday's 8 a.m. Mass. The Mass was held in the school's gym as police continue their investigation into yesterday's murder of priest Father Edward Hinds.

After the attack, authorities said Feliciano returned to his house in Easton, Pa. The next day, the janitor came to work at the church, and was among a group of parishioners who discovered Hinds' body in the rectory, Bianchi said.

When the body was found, Feliciano feigned shock and made a "fledgling attempt at CPR," Bianchi said, adding that his behavior — which appeared staged to witnesses — had raised suspicions.

Authorities said they knew Hinds had a cell phone but couldn't find it on his body. They tracked the cell phone to Easton, Pa. where Feliciano was arrested. In a search in Easton, authorities said they also discovered the murder weapon, bloody towels, clothing and rags. Bianchi refused to say whether the phone and other items were found in Feliciano's possession.

Authorities said Hinds had wounds all over his body, including defensive wounds on his hands and bruises on his face. The fatal wounds were to his upper torso and the back of his head, according to the prosecutor.

Earlier today, a crowd of about 300 grieving parishioners attended an 8 a.m. Mass in a gymnasium in the St. Patrick's school, which is next to the church and rectory. A priest for four decades, Hinds was remembered with great affection.

The church, rectory school and parking lots had remained cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape since Friday morning, after Hinds dead body was discovered at 8:03 a.m.

At that time, Hinds had not shown up for the daily 8 a.m. Mass as usual. A church janitor went looking for him, and found him dead on the floor, a monsignor who knew Hinds well has said.

The cause of death was severe trauma and the manner was homicide, Bianchi said.

The killing shocked and unnerved Chatham, a leafy bedroom community of 10,000 suburbanites.

Bianchi held his press conference at the Morris County Administration Building in Morristown at the same time that St. Patrick's parishioners were attending the 5 p.m. Mass over at the church in Chatham.

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Category: Church Security

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