Mostly Clear
H 63° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Clear. H 63° L 40°
  • clear-day
    Mostly Clear. H 63° L 40°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 59° L 36°

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

A plea to spare his own killer's life

A prosecutor is planning to seek the death penalty for the gunman who killed a Florida priest in the woods of Georgia.  The victim, however, never wanted that to happen.

More than 20 years before he was shot to death in 2016, Rev. Rene Robert signed a "Declaration of Life," specifying that if he was ever the victim of a homicide, that his killer's life should be spared.  That 1995 document is front and center now as the district attorney in the Augusta (GA) judicial circuit prosecutes accused gunman Steven Murray.

“Should I die as a result of a violent crime,” Robert’s 1995 document reads, “I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I have suffered."

Wilton D. Gregory, the Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, says Robert did not know he would die a violent death, but that his document planned for it just in case. Robert, he says, spent much of his priesthood working with addicts and ex-offenders.

"They were people who had either emotional, psychological, or even criminal backgrounds," Gregory tells WSB.  "So I don't know if it displayed all of the characteristics of someone who knew what would happen, as someone who presumed that it might happen." 

Murray is one of the people Robert had been helping.  Prosecutors say Murray kidnapped the 71-year-old priest from St. Augustine, Florida in April of 2016, forced Robert into the trunk of his own car, and drove him into Burke County, Georgia, where he shot and killed him.  

Murray, then 28, has claimed that the priest went with him willingly as Murray headed to South Carolina to find his two children.  The priest, he told a Florida reporter, got into the trunk willingly because Murray did not want anyone to see him.  He told the Times-Union that after his children’s grandfather told him he could not see the kids, he kept driving, only to hear Robert getting upset in the trunk.  Murray began to panic, and after driving across the state line into Georgia, he stopped the car and walked behind Robert into the woods.  

Several days later, Murray was arrested, and after a few more days, led police to the priest’s body in the woods.

“The cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds,” Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey said then.

After a hearing in April, Murray apologized.

"I'm very sorry and if anybody really loves Father Rene, they'll forgive me because he was a man of God and forgiveness is forgiveness," he said.  

Months later, following a hearing in September in which he pleaded not guilty to Robert’s fatal shooting, Murray’s tone was very different. 

“Tell the world I say f*** ‘em,” he said to Augusta’s WRDW News.

Robert long opposed capital punishment, and would pray at protests with others in St. Augustine whenever an execution was scheduled in Florida.

WSB legal analyst Ron Carlson says it's a unique and bizarre legal question, and that no legal expert he's talked to has ever seen such a document.  Carlson point out that it's not binding and does not require a prosecutor to take the death penalty off the table.

"It's not just a crime against Father Robert," says Carlson, "it is also deemed to be a crime against the peace and dignity of the State of Georgia. That's why the DA in Augusta is not signing off, simply, in the face of that letter."  

Gregory says he understands that the state has the right to pursue the death penalty, but he contends that capital punishment is never the answer.

"The death penalty only increases violence by inflicting violence once again," says Gregory.  The Archbishop says this does not mean that Robert's killer should go unpunished.

"Justice in this case would certainly mean that the individual would be subject to prison without the possibility of parole," says Gregory.

Published reports say Robert's sister was at first adamant that her brother's killer get the death penalty--until she read the Declaration of Life.  Murray's sister is hopeful that the prosecution will give a lot of weight to Robert's document, which she told the Associated Press she believes was God-sent.

WSB asked Gregory his thoughts on that.

"Certainly, Father Robert's end-of-life instructions causes us to return to a careful--and I hope, balanced--evaluation of our legal system," he says.  "If that's divinely inspired, then I'll accept her interpretation."

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.


  • The wife of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul says her husband hasn't taken a single breath without pain since what she calls 'a deliberate, blindside attack' by a Kentucky neighbor earlier this month.Authorities say the Republican was attacked Nov. 3 by Rene Boucher while mowing his lawn. Kelley Paul writes in an essay published by CNN that her husband suffered six broken ribs and fluid in his lungs. Paul says he was diagnosed with pneumonia after returning from Washington last week.Boucher is charged with misdemeanor assault. His attorney blames the attack on a 'trivial' dispute and says it wasn't politically motivated.Kelly Paul says neither she, nor her husband, have spoken to Boucher in 10 years. She writes that 'the only 'dispute' existed solely in the attacker's troubled mind.
  • Police are warning mall goers this holiday season after Channel 2 Action News obtained video that shows a man and woman installing a card skimmer on an ATM at Lenox Square. A witness told Channel 2’s Carl Willis he saw it happen and told security. 'It's the season and everyone is going to be pulling out cash,' the witness told Willis, asking not to be identified. 'They did it very swiftly and very quick.' The man told Willis he happened to be standing on the second floor of Lenox Square when he looked down and saw a couple install two devices on an ATM 'I see the guy applying a lot of pressure in the top right corner. I thought that was abnormal,' the man said. TRENDING STORIES: Ex-Braves GM banned for life by MLB; Atlanta loses prospects 60+ people fall ill after company Thanksgiving party Jailhouse phone calls reveal aftermath of deadly heroin-fueled crash Police say the couple seen on the video installed a card skimmer at an ATM in the middle of the mall’s food court 'As you watch you can see that they may have installed a pin camera,' Sgt. Paul Cooper, with the Atlanta Police Department’s major fraud unit, told Willis. With your card number and your PIN, thieves have everything they need to go on a shopping spree. Police told Willis there's been an uptick in this kind of activity in the past couple of years. 'Our best guess is because we're transitioning from the mag-stripe to the chip and pin. The chips are encrypted and it's a lot harder to duplicate those cards,' Cooper said. Cooper worries if scammers are bold enough to hit a mall ATM, there are likely many more devices out there. 'We do try to target these people. We see that they tend to cross state lines they may be working the entire eastern seaboard right now,' Cooper said. For now, shoppers will have to take steps to keep thieves from swiping your information. 'Take that extra couple of seconds. Tug on it (the card reader). Look for those cameras. Just make sure you don't get burned,' Cooper told Willis. 'Definitely cover up your PIN if you're not sure that it's a valid swiper or valid scanner try using another ATM,” the witness said. Police are asking anyone who may recognize the man and woman in the video to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.
  • Cam Newton describes it as his resurrection day.The Carolina Panthers quarterback reflected on his arrest in 2008 for stealing a laptop while at the University of Florida. He reflected Wednesday on what he said was a low point in his life.Newton was charged with felony counts of burglary, larceny and obstructing justice. He posted his police mug shot on the nine-year anniversary of his arrest Tuesday, saying he did it to show others that people can rebound from the mistakes.'A lot of me changed that day, for obvious reasons,' Newton said during a news conference on Wednesday. 'My biggest scar, in essence, ended up being my biggest star.'He thought his football career was over. He completed a pretrial diversion program, struck a plea deal and all charges were dropped. The moment still sticks with Carolina Panthers quarterback as the low point of his life.But Newton said hitting rock bottom helped turn his life around.Since transferring from Florida amid allegations that he cheated on classwork, Newton has enjoyed plenty of success on the field. He has won two national championships — one at Blinn College and another at Auburn. He was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in 2011, is a former league MVP award, has played in three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl. The 28-year-old has also run for more touchdowns than any QB in NFL history.He also has several endorsement deals.Newton said he contemplated whether or not to post his arrest photo, knowing it would open him up to more scrutiny from and bring back some painful memories. But he said he thought someone who has made a mistake might benefit if he did.'For a person that probably made a mistake, no matter what it was, to try to be better from it,' Newton said. 'I have (people I know) that are in the penitentiary, family members that are incarcerated. But yet that doesn't define them. We are all owed a second chance, even third and fourth chances.'It is what you learn from it that defines you.'Newton has had to live by those words.His share of off-the-field issues didn't cease after he left Florida.In 2010, the NCAA said Newton's father, Cecil Newton, and another unnamed person tried to market Newton 'as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton's commitment to attend college and play football.' Newton was suspended for one day but then reinstated after an NCAA investigation determined he had not violated any rules.Newton's image took a hit after his abbreviated press conference following a Super Bowl loss to the Denver Broncos in February of 2016 where he barely answered questions, carrying himself as a poor loser.And he lost a sponsor earlier this year following sexist remarks he made to a female reporter during a news conference. He later apologized on social media for his comments.Newton said after talking with a friend about all of his past problems he decided to post the arrest photo, saying he was 'thankful' for a second chance.'I don't want to be the poster child of perfection because when you put yourself up on that pinnacle and you finally mess up, that's when it all comes tumbling down,' Newton said. 'I want people to look at me and say, 'Cam is still going strong, but look at the mistakes that he has made.''I'm still a work in progress myself.'Newton had received more than 215,000 'likes' on his Instagram post as of Wednesday.'It was a turning point in his life, obviously,' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. 'I think it helped him. He could have gone one way or the other. I think it motivated him to do things the right way.'Panthers wide receiver Russell Shepard wasn't surprised by Newton's Instagram post.'That's Cam,' Shepard said. 'Cam is going to be bold. He's going to be very opinionated. He's going to be the guy that isn't the stereotypical type of guy. That is what makes him who he is. That is what makes his story a little different than most franchise quarterbacks.'___For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • A Cherokee County hopes new sketches from state investigators will lead to an arrest in their loved one’s murder.  Police say he was kidnapped, shot and left for dead on the side of Interstate 75 in January 2016.  “It was just like someone ripped my heart out because he was just … He was someone I loved,” Gary McCoy said about the killing of his brother, Herbert “Buster” Perkinson III.  McCoy told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that his family and friends called his brother the third Buster. “He was one of eight, and he was just the life of the party,” McCoy told Winne.  He now hopes sketches of two men drawn by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation forensic artist will generate information that will help investigators catch Perkinson’s killers. TRENDING STORIES: Worker killed after woman drives onto sidewalk on busy road, police say There's a Christmas tree shortage in metro Atlanta Arrests made in violent robberies of Asian-owned businesses GBI Agent Bahan Rich said that about 5 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2016, two men surprised Perkinson and two friends in his driveway in Emerson, in Bartow County, and abducted him. Soon after, he was found about three miles away, north of Exit 277 on I-75 south, just inside Cherokee County.  Rich said Perkinson later died of a gunshot wound at a hospital.  “We believe that it is someone that is very familiar with our victim,” Rich told Winne.  Rich said the two suspects in the sketches may be from the Bartow or north Cobb County area, and one avenue of investigation involves the shadowy underground of dog-fighting. Rich told Winne that Perkinson sold pit bulls. “The family, we still hurt every day. Put yourself in our position,” McCoy said.   Rich says one suspect has a medium complexion, may be between 30 and 40 years old, is about six feet tall and may have had a mustache. The other suspect has a slightly darker complexion, also may be between 30 and 40 years old and could be slightly taller. “We really have a very good artist,” Rich told Winne.   GBI forensic artist Kelly Lawson said God guides her hand in a way that often results in uncanny matches between her drawings and the actual suspects once they are eventually caught, and she hopes the drawings in this case help the family get answers. “We still have faith. We are a family of faith that he or she will be brought to justice,” McCoy told Winne. 
  • An attorney for a Democratic state senator resigning over sexual harassment allegations raised questions Wednesday about two key accusers and suggested they may have wanted to sabotage the senator's campaign for higher office.Sen. Dan Schoen, of St. Paul Park, didn't appear at a news conference two weeks after he was first accused of misconduct ranging from groping to unwanted advances.His attorney, Paul Rogosheske, said Schoen stands by his denials of any wrongdoing aside from sending a photo of male genitalia to a female Senate staffer, which he said was accidentally sent to the wrong person. Rogosheske said two women who have alleged sexual harassment, Lindsey Port and state Rep. Erin Maye Quade, have been 'misrepresenting' their encounters with Schoen.Port was a Democratic legislative candidate in 2015 when, she said, Schoen repeatedly complimented her bottom and later groped her buttocks at a campaign event. Maye Quade, also a Democrat, said Schoen made unwanted sexual advances to her by text.Rogosheske said several witnesses at the same event as Port and Schoen in 2015 said they didn't witness any groping, including at the specific time Port said it occurred. Rogosheske said the supposed witnesses were unwilling to come forward and declined to identify them.He also said Maye Quade misinterpreted a text from Schoen that was intended for someone else. He disputed her account that Schoen was making unwanted advances, handing out more than a dozen pages of screenshots from Schoen's phone that do not include repeated invitations to Maye Quade to have a drink with him that she initially recounted.The texts centered around weeks of unrest in north Minneapolis in November 2015 after a black man was shot and killed by police after what onlookers described as a scuffle. The alleged screenshots show Maye Quade initially reached out for advice, and the pair exchanged messages as protesters surrounded a local police precinct in the days after Jamar Clark's death.A third claim against Schoen — by a female Senate staffer who said he sent her a photo of male genitalia — was simply a mistake by Schoen with a picture intended for someone else, Rogosheske said. He had previously told Minnesota Public Radio News that Schoen had never sent explicit photos to any woman.Asked if his client ever harassed anyone, Rogosheske responded: 'Never meant to sexually harass anybody.'I sincerely wish that I had known at the time that I was making friends uncomfortable,' Schoen wrote in his resignation letter. His resignation is effective Dec. 15.Rogosheske also noted that Port's business partner is running for state auditor and suggested the accusations may have been intended to derail a competing bid by Schoen. Port was traveling Wednesday and didn't respond to messages.Maye Quade referred a request for comment to her statement Tuesday night on Schoen's resignation, highlighting one portion that said: 'Unless systematic and widespread changes are enacted, these behaviors and subsequent attempts to cover up instances of harassment will continue.'Hours after Schoen said he would quit on Tuesday, GOP state Rep. Tony Cornish also announced he would resign following several accusations of improper conduct. Cornish apologized for his actions, including a specific apology to a lobbyist who accused him of repeated unwanted attention and trying to force a kiss.Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday he hoped the resignations would help clean up a problem of sexual harassment in the Capitol.'These are very important first steps,' Dayton said.Since the allegations surfaced earlier in November, Dayton launched a review of the executive branch's training and reporting procedures for sexual harassment.Schoen still works as a police officer for the Cottage Grove Police Department, which assigned him to administrative duties when allegations against him surfaced earlier this month. Schoen remains on administrative duties and no complaints of misconduct have been reported to the department, city administrator Charlene Stevens said Wednesday, and Rogosheske says he sees no reason for his resignation to affect his employment.Both men will be replaced in special elections. Dayton said he hoped to schedule those in time to fill the seats before the Legislature returns Feb. 20.
  • A 24-year-old Lincoln, Nebraska, woman has been missing for several days following a date with someone she met online, and now police are calling the circumstance surrounding her disappearance “concerning.” >> Read more trending news >> Related: Police make gruesome discovery after teacher bails her boyfriend out of jail and disappears  Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Jeff Bliemeister spoke to local media Tuesday and urged residents to continue looking for Sydney Loofe as the department conducts interviews and pieces together the events that led to her her disappearance, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Police confirmed that Loofe was last seen in Wilber, 40 miles southwest of Lincoln, on Wed. Nov. 15.. according to the Star. Suspicion grew when she missed work the following day at a Lincoln grocery store where she is a cashier after apparently going out on a date the night before, her parents said. Loofe sent a Snapchat message saying she was “ready for my date” just hours before she disappeared. Her family said she sent the Snapchat message about going on a date with a woman she met online, and that she was definitely “planning on coming home that night.” She also left her cat and car at her home in Lincoln, her family said. >> Related: Killer details brutal murder, final minutes of NY jogger in police video Loffe’s family is circulating a flyer that suggest they fear she was abducted. The flyer indicated that her phone pinged off a cellphone tower in the Wilber area, but that it has since been turned off. Her parents, Susie and George Loofe, find it suspicious that her phone is off, and that her cat and car were left at home. Lincoln police have declined to say if they have spoken to the person Loofe was going out with that night or where in Wilber she might have been. “Really what our focus is on at this point is trying to find Sydney,” the police chief Bliemeister said. “And to go out and to detail every investigative aspect really, I think, is going to detract from the overall message of, ‘We’re trying to find her as quickly as possible.'” Police are asking anyone with information on Loofe’s whereabouts to call 402-441-6000. >> Related: Teen who disappeared with her teacher says it was wrong, but she doesn’t regret it Loofe is 5-foot-7 and weighs 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white Columbia jacket and a cream-colored shirt. She has a yin-yang tattoo on one of her forearms, the word “Believe” with a cross on the inside of her left wrist, and the phrase “Everything will be wonderful someday” on her right bicep.