Man gets 12 years for stabbing priest

| March 14, 2010

SAN ANGELO, Texas — A man accused of stabbing a Sinton priest took a plea deal for 12 years in prison, about a week before he was set to stand trial.

Father Shaji Varghese, who was stabbed nearly 20 times, sat at the back of the courtroom as the judge sentenced David Rodriguez for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

“It brought me some mixed emotions. It was the first time after (the stabbing) that I saw him,” Varghese said. “It was difficult to face him, not because of any anger, but some scary thoughts started coming back. It’s been 10 months, but today it was very alive in my mind.”

Varghese was at the sentencing merely by chance.

He went to the San Patricio County courthouse Friday to drop off his victim impact statement for use by court officials when he was urged to say something during the proceedings that he didn’t even realize were taking place. Varghese didn’t speak during the hearing.

“I have already forgiven him,” Varghese said. “The

terms of punishment, more or less years, is nothing to me. I have no regret or anger toward him.”

Rodriguez also was ordered to pay $28,000 in restitution, San Patricio County Chief Deputy Oscar Rivera said.

Rodriguez’s attorney David Stith was not available for comment Friday afternoon.

Varghese was standing in the side doorway of Sinton’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church after Mass in May when he was attacked by Rodriguez, who has a history of mental issues.

Rodriguez was evaluated by mental health professionals who testified in January that Rodriguez was competent to stand trial and a jury agreed, setting the trial for March 22.

“Hopefully he may understand that being in the jail is not just punishment but a chance to make him re-evaluate his life and his actions and to take it positively,” Varghese said.

Varghese, who has pain from the attack, said he is glad that witnesses will not have to testify.

“For me, whether he was sentenced or released that won’t change how I sleep at night, but it was unfinished and now it’s over,” he said.

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Category: Church Security

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