Suspect leads investigators to body of missing priest in Burke County

Burke County, GA (WJBF) –  A search that spanned three states and four different counties came to an end in a remote area of Burke County.

“We’ve been following the story since it began,” said Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey.

A story that bought its ending to Burke County nine days after Father Rene Robert’s went missing from the Jacksonville, Florida area on April 10th, and five days since 28-year-old Steven James Murray was arrested in Aiken County. He was on the run after being named a Person of Interest in the disappearance of Father Robert.

Photo of Steven James Murray (left) and Father Rene Robert.
Photo of Steven James Murray (left) and Father Rene Robert.

“It is shocking the way it happened,” said Sheriff Coursey. “This is the third body we’ve had brought to Burke County in the last year, though. I will say that.”

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, detectives developed a rapport with Murray, and he said he’d lead them to the body.

When the Florida team arrived Monday, Murray took the investigators to several locations before his memory kicked in off Highway 56 Spur near the Mixon Cemetery. Sheriff Coursey learned of the discovery around 7:20 p.m. “It wasn’t long when he recognized the road and took them straight to the body

Authorities said that although all evidence indicates that the remains are that of Father Rene, positive identification by an autopsy is still necessary.

Murray apparently told investigators he also had relatives nearby and was familiar with the area. Sheriff Coursey says Murray’s demeanor lacking remorse.

“Seemed like he was a little bit unconcerned.”

Investigators are choosing not to reveal how Father Robert was killed, but believed he died on Sunday, April 10th.

Sheriff Coursey hopes this discovery helps the many people grieving back in Florida.

“It’s a sad story with a sad ending but we’re glad to bring some closure hopefully for his family and the St. Johns community.”

Father Robert’s body is at the GBI crime lab in Atlanta — where an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.

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