Pa. man accused of killing Chatham priest moved from psychiatric facility to Morris County jail

| January 13, 2010

CHATHAM BOROUGH — The suspect charged with killing Rev. Edward Hinds of St. Patrick Church in Chatham was returned tonight from a psychiatric facility, where he had been since shortly after his arrest three months ago, to the Morris County jail, authorities said.

Jose Feliciano, the church's former custodian, is being held on $1 million bail, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said in a statement tonight.

Feliciano, 64, of Easton, Pa., was returned to the jail at 7 p.m., Bianchi said. He was charged with murder in the beating and stabbing death of the Rev. Edward Hinds of St. Patrick Church in Chatham on Oct. 22 at the parish rectory.

Hinds was found dead the next morning, Oct. 23, in the rectory kitchen, a victim of 32 stab wounds, authorities said.

Parishioners had became concerned when Hinds did not show up for morning Mass as usual, and discovered their priest on the kitchen floor of the rectory. At first, they reported in a 911 call that Hinds had apparently fallen and been knocked unconscious.

Feliciano, who feigned surprise at finding Hinds at the same time as the parishioners, came under immediate suspicion when he half-heartedely attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Hinds, authorities said.

Feliciano became distraught and was taken to Morristown Memorial Hospital, where he remained as police investigated the slaying, connected him to the crime and arrested him on Oct. 24.

A few days later, Feliciano had been transferred to the Ann Klein Forensic Center, a psychiatric hospital in Trenton, where he had remained since being returned to the Morris County jail tonight.

Feliciano has been held in lieu of $1 million bail since his arrest.

A possible motive for the slaying was revealed in a four-page search warrant for Feliciano's home in Pennsylvania. Several weeks before he was killed, Hinds discovered that Feliciano's employment record did not include the requisite citation indicating he had passed a background investigation. Hinds' review might have been prompted by efforts by the Diocese of Paterson six months earlier to ensure that all parishes and schools complied with diocesan policies on criminal background checks.

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

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, just two days before he was killed, Hinds told St. Patrick school principal Marianne Hobbie of the discrepancy and said Feliciano might have to be "let go," according to court records.

On Thursday evening, Oct. 22, after the parish priest informed Feliciano about problems with his "continued employment" at St. Patrick, the church janitor apparently flew into a rage, authorities said.

During the struggle just before he was killed, Hinds called 911 at 5:27 p.m. asking for help, according to audio recordings of the call released by police.

Apparently struggling to speak, Hinds tried to tell a police dispatcher the street address of the rectory, but the call quickly became disconnected. A dispatcher with the New Jersey State Police answered the call saying, "911, where is the emergency," and Hinds, in a halting voice and sounding out of breath, replied, "85 — Washington Avenue."

However, because the call was placed via cell phone, its exact location and town were not known to the dispatcher answering the call, authorities said. When the dispatcher called the number back, Feliciano is believed to have answered the phone and told the officer there was no problem, and no police services were sent to the scene.

The homicide investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact the Morris County Prosecutor's Office at (973) 285-6200.

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Category: Church Security

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