Sealed N.Y. case surfaces in accused priest killer Jose Feliciano’s past

| June 24, 2010

The church janitor charged with stabbing the Rev. Edward Hinds to death last October in Chatham has another secret from his past — a court case that has been sealed in New York, it was disclosed in a Morristown courtroom Wednesday.

Murder suspect Jose R. Feliciano, 65, was brought before Superior Court Judge David Ironson for a status conference on his charge of killing Hinds, the pastor of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Chatham, with 32 stab wounds on Oct. 22 in the kitchen of the rectory.

Prosecutors first disclosed on Oct. 29 at a bail hearing for Feliciano that they learned there is a 1988 warrant for Feliciano's arrest out of Philadelphia that charges him with committing indecent assault without consent, simple assault, and corruption of minors on March 31, 1988.

A longtime custodian for St. Patrick's Church, Feliciano had not disclosed this charge to his employer, the Diocese of Paterson. Philadelphia authorities have not released details of these charges to the media, instead referring calls to a court website that merely lists the outstanding charges.

Before Ironson on Wednesday, Morris County Assistant Prosecutor John McNamara Jr. revealed for the first time that his office has learned of a sealed court case in New York that he is trying to get a judge to unseal.

Neither McNamara nor defense attorney Neill Hamilton would comment on the nature of this case nor how old it is, but McNamara said the Philadelphia and New York cases are particularly relevant in the slaying of the 61-year-old cleric.

''The prior conduct of Mr. Feliciano is relevant to motive'' in the Hinds case, McNamara said.

Authorities previously have said they believe that Feliciano argued with Hinds over his continued employment at the church, where he worked for 17 years. In the months before Hinds was killed, the diocese had doubled its efforts to make sure all employees and volunteers with regular contact with children had undergone criminal background checks and were trained in a ''Protecting God's Children'' program.

Diocese attorney Kenneth Mullaney said Wednesday he was not aware of the existence of a New York case against Feliciano.

When prosecutors learned of the Philadelphia charges, they found that Feliciano has used different birthdates and Social Security numbers and has gone by other names such as Carlos Feliciano.

McNamara said he would file a legal brief in six weeks with the court that will outline past criminal events — also called ''prior bad acts'' — that the state will seek to use against Feliciano at trial.

Hamilton said he expects to retain a psychiatrist or psychologist to evaluate Feliciano, a father of two, but that it was premature to say whether a psychiatric defense would be pursued.

The priest's body was discovered around 8 a.m. on Oct. 23 when he failed to appear to give morning mass. Feliciano, a resident of Easton, Pa., was among those who ''found'' the pastor and he fell under near-immediate suspicion for the homicide.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security

Comments are closed.