January 31, 2017: A press conference was held in Augusta, GA featuring several speakers including Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of the Diocese of Savannah, a friar of Our Lady of the Angels Province. A plea was made for the new Acting District Attorney, Hank Syms to reverse the decision to seek the death penalty in the case against Steven James Murray, in Superior Court of Burke County, for the murder of Father Rene Robert.
The letter read by Bishop Hartmayer was written by Our Lady of the Angels Province Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv.
The following is an excerpt taken from an email sent to all of the friars of our province, by Friar James:
“In April 2016, a former friar, Rev. Rene Robert, who in 1995 incardinated into the Diocese of St. Augustine, Florida, was murdered by an ex-convict to whom he was ministering. After the police caught Mr. Steven James Murray, the ex-convict led them to the body of Fr. Rene where he was slain, near Augusta, Georgia (in the Diocese of Savannah). Now the State of Georgia is preparing to prosecute Mr. Murray for murder as a capital crime for which they will seek the death penalty. …when Fr. Rene first began his ministry to prisoners several years earlier, he wrote a “Declaration of Life,” asking that, if he should be murdered, the death penalty not be used against his killer(s). … After consultation with Bishop Gregory, I asked the OLA Definitory to approve a letter of support for the Bishops’ petition.”