CHATHAM, N.J. (RNS) A grand jury on Tuesday (Sept. 14) issued a revised indictment against a former church custodian who stands accused of murdering a Catholic priest.
The new seven-count indictment is substantially the same as the original six-count document but removes a reference to defendant Jose Feliciano’s possible “depravity of mind” and adds a second count of first-degree robbery.
Feliciano is also charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of unlawful possession of a weapon and one count of hindering his apprehension.
Feliciano, 64, of Easton, Pa., is charged with stabbing the Rev. Edward Hinds at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Chatham 32 times on Oct. 22, 2009. He is also accused of stealing Hinds’ cell phone.
Prosecutors allege that Feliciano killed Hinds because the priest was preparing to fire Feliciano after learning of his 1988 arrest in Philadelphia for inappropriately touching a child. Feliciano had been a fugitive ever since.
The biggest language changes came in two of the indictment’s three “findings of aggravating factors” related to the first count of murder.
The original indictment said the murder was “outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved torture, depravity of mind or an aggravated assault.” The “depravity of mind” phrase was removed from the new indictment.
Feliciano’s attorney, public defender Neill Hamilton said a confession Feliciano made while in a hospital’s psychiatric ward may have been affected by prescription drugs.
In another aggravating factor, the language was shortened to say Feliciano “committed the murder while engaged in the commission of, or attempt to commit, a flight after committing or attempting to commit the crime of robbery.” The original indictment said Feliciano had committed the crime “after attempting to commit murder, robbery, sexual assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping or carjacking.”
The findings of aggravated factors could lead to a stiffer sentence for Feliciano if he is convicted.