25 October 2017 :
Burke County Judge James Blanchard sentenced Steven Murray to life without possibility of parole plus 10 years. In a plea deal reached with Georgia prosecutors, Murray has agreed to plead guilty to the murder of Father Rene Robert, a Franciscan priest from the Diocese of St. Augustine, and be sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty despite a "statement of life" left by Father Rene in which requested that the death penalty not be used "under any circumstances" if he were to be killed. In 1995, Father Rene signed a declaration that said if he was the victim of a victim of homicide, the killer should not be given the death penalty. On January 31, Catholic Bishops from Georgia and Florida had travelled to Augusta to meet with prosecutors in an effort to persuade them to drop the capital charges. The family of slain St. Augustine priest, the Rev. Rene Robert, says Georgia prosecutors have reached a deal in the accused killer's case and he will soon be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The move, which has not been confirmed by the Augusta (Georgia) District Attorney's Office, spares Steven James Murray the death penalty, which prosecutors had initially said they would seek. "We are very happy because this is what my brother would want," Robert's sister Deborah Bedard told The Record. Murray was arrested in South Carolina in April 2016 - days after Robert was reported missing. Authorities, with Murray's help, later found Robert's body in a remote part of Burke County, Georgia, where Murray is said to have shot the priest. Murray, who was 28 at the time of Robert's death and had been in and out jail and prison, came to know the priest through his active prison ministry. Steven Murray admitted that he killed Father Rene, 71, on April 10, 2016 and dumped his body in a remote area in Waynesboro, Ga. He was charged with malice murder, and Murray pled guilty to the charge. Murray led authorities to Father Rene's body a few days after the killing and asked for forgiveness.