Slain priest planned to lay off suspect

| October 27, 2009

Jose Feliciano, the 64-year-old janitor accused of killing the Rev. Edward Hinds, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Chatham, was beset with financial worries and health problems, those who know the family say.

He and his wife, Marisol, of Easton, Pa., both worked two jobs, but Feliciano, who authorities say confessed to stabbing Hinds 32 times, lost his second job at an electronics store earlier this year, friends said.

"They had very long days," said a neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "They would leave the house at 5:30 a.m. and would not get back home until 7:30 or 8:30 at night."

In addition, Hinds intended to lay off Feliciano because of money problems at St. Patrick Church, said Ken Mullaney, the attorney for the Diocese of Paterson.

"As is true with so many of our parishes, they're under tremendous financial pressure, especially in view of the economic downturn," Mullaney said.

Feliciano also had a medical condition, a neighbor told the New York Daily News. Doctors thought he might have a cyst on one of his kidneys, the neighbor said.

Feliciano, who was arrested Saturday and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, remains hospitalized at Morristown Memorial Hospital with an undisclosed ailment, authorities said. Marisol Feliciano drove him there on Friday after he discovered Hinds' body in the church rectory that morning, Northampton County, Pa., District Attorney John Morganelli said yesterday.

A former neighbor, Ned Fitzpatrick, said that in 2004 the Felicianos moved to Easton from an apartment house adjacent to the Chatham church because he always wanted his own house.

"It was the closest place that was still affordable," Fitzpatrick said.

Feliciano bought the home in Easton for $145,000, according to property records.

Morris County investigators spent most of yesterday morning searching the Felicianos' home, removing a computer, a clothes hamper and several household articles. They also brought out Feliciano's Beagle, Fria, and took the dog to the Center for Animal Health and Welfare in Williams Township, police said.

An Easton Fire Department truck was called to the house so authorities could use its bucket to search the roof and gutters. Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi would not discuss what the investigators were looking for at the residence.

Six New Jersey officials and two Easton police detectives also combed a park and softball field across the street from the house where bloody clothes and the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife, were found earlier. Police recovered the priest's cell phone from Feliciano, authorities said.

Meanwhile, Capt. Gerald Lewis, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police, confirmed it was a State Police dispatcher who received a 911 call, which authorities believe may have been placed by the 61-year-old Hinds at 5:27 p.m. Thursday while he was being attacked.

When the line went dead, the dispatcher tried twice to reach the caller, authorities have said. The first attempt went to voice mail. The second call was answered by Feliciano, who said there was no emergency, Bianchi said.

Lewis said all 911 calls from cell phones have been routed through State Police headquarters since 2003. It is standard procedure for dispatchers to attempt to re-establish contact with the original caller, said Lewis, adding that the dispatcher who received Hinds' call on Thursday did that.

At the St. Patrick School, which is adjacent to the church, grief counselors huddled with students and parents yesterday, trying to restore a sense of normalcy to the traumatized community. At least one mother expressed concern about what would happen to Feliciano's daughter, an eighth-grader at the school.

In his Pennsylvania neighborhood and in the New Jersey community where he worked, Feliciano was known as a gentle, smiling presence, who extended his hand whenever it was needed.

"He was loved by the kids, loved by the parents," said Monsignor Ronald Amandolare, the former pastor of St. Patrick. "He was a great, hard worker and very kind. You could call him in the morning, noon and night if anything broke. "¦ You say, "Jose, can you help me?' "Sure, I'll be right over.'

"I never saw him violent, never saw him angry. If he had a problem he'd come talk to you, never angry. That's why parents trusted their kids with him all the time. He went beyond the call of duty. He would do extra work for you, whatever you needed."

Feliciano is scheduled to have a bail-review hearing today in Superior Court in Morristown.

Staff writers Amy Ellis Nutt, Jeff Diamant, Jim Lockwood and Chris Megerian contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Express-Times of Easton, Pa., and the New York Daily News.

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Category: Church Security

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