CHATHAM, New Jersey – One day before he was stabbed to death in the kitchen of his church rectory, a New Jersey priest had discussed firing the janitor later charged in the killing, according to court documents.
The Rev. Ed Hinds told the principal of St. Patrick Church school Oct. 21 that he might have to "let go" Jose Feliciano, citing problems with a criminal background investigation, according to a search warrant application filed in district court in Wind Gap, Pa. The 64-year-old custodian had worked at the church in upscale Chatham, N.J., for 17 years.
Authorities have said Hinds, 61, was stabbed 32 times during an argument with Feliciano on Oct. 22. His body was found in the rectory the next day after he failed to show up for 8 a.m. Mass; Feliciano called 911.
The janitor came to the attention of police almost immediately after they arrived because they saw him administering CPR to the body in a "halfhearted" manner, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said.
School principal Marian Hobbie said Hinds told her the box for passing a criminal background check had not been checked in Feliciano's personnel file, according to the application for a police search of the custodian's home in Easton, Pa. It was unclear from Hobbie's comments to police whether Feliciano had failed a background check or never undergone one.
The Star-Ledger of Newark first reported that Hinds had considered firing Feliciano. Bianchi has declined to discuss a possible motive for the first violent death in Chatham since 1990.
An affidavit filed in support of the search warrant said that police found blood-soaked rags in a trash can in a park across the street from the Feliciano home.
A police inventory filed with the court a few days after the Oct. 24 search of Feliciano's house indicates investigators seized clothing, sneakers, a hamper, the seat cover from a dining room chair, bath towels, various faucets and drains, and four computers.
The court records said police also were looking for letters, diaries, e-mail and photos.
Feliciano's daughter is an 8th grader at St. Patrick School and his son, who is in 11th grade, is a graduate of the school. The family belongs to the St. Patrick's parish.
The warrant application says 58 calls were made from Hinds' phone in the Easton area starting at 11 a.m. on the day he was attacked. Police said the slaying occurred later in the day — around 5:30 p.m. Officials with the prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the apparent discrepancy.
Someone used the phone to call 911 and request emergency assistance at "Washington Avenue," at 5:27 p.m., according to the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant. St. Patrick Church is located on that street. A New Jersey state police dispatcher returned the call, but no one answered. The dispatcher placed a second call. This time, someone did answer — and told police that their assistance wasn't needed.
Hobbie identified that voice as belonging to Feliciano, according to the court records.