Troubled janitor gets life in prison for priest’s slaying
MORRISTOWN, N.J. (RNS) After more than an hour of dramatic testimony from those who knew and loved a longtime Catholic priest, a judge on Friday ordered that troubled church janitor Jose Feliciano, 66, spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole in the priest’s murder.
Judith Ann Conk, who knew the Rev. Edward Hinds for 40 years, found no solace in the life sentence.
“Who will share our sorrows, triumphs and tragedies?” Conk said, addressing the court. “This terrible loss will not go away.”
Feliciano worked at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Chatham, N.J., for 20 years. He admitted to stabbing the priest 44 times inside the St. Patrick rectory Oct. 22, 2009, shortly after the priest fired him.
Prosecutors said the 61-year-old pastor had discovered Feliciano had an arrest warrant in Philadelphia from the 1980s for sexually touching a child and had used aliases and fake identification over the years to hide his past.
Feliciano claimed the killing was provoked, alleging that Hinds had been blackmailing him for four years by forcing him to perform sex acts in exchange for keeping the criminal charges quiet.
In December, after just five hours of deliberation, a jury rejected that defense, convicting Feliciano of murder, felony murder, robbery, hindering and weapons charges.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan told Feliciano he was required to impose life without parole because of the jury’s verdict, but that it gave him no pause.
“It has nothing to do with the fact Father Hinds was a Catholic priest,” the judge said. “This crime was heinous. His conduct deceitful. The court would most certainly have sentenced him the same.”
(Alexi Friedman writes for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.)