RELIGION

Plea in murder case from unlikely spot: the victim, a priest

  • In this Dec. 15, 2016 photo, John Gillespie of San Sebastian Catholic Church in St. Augustine, Fla., reads a letter written by his slain colleague, Father Rene Robert. Last summer, after a multi-state manhunt that started in Florida and stretched to South Carolina, police arrested Steven Murray in connection with the 71-year-old Robert's killing. Murray led authorities into the Georgia woods, where Robert's body lay. Police said Murray had asked Father Rene for a ride, then kidnapped and fatally shot him. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, a decision that Catholic officials from Georgia and Florida plan to protest on the courthouse steps. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

    In this Dec. 15, 2016 photo, John Gillespie of San Sebastian Catholic Church in St. Augustine, Fla., reads a letter written by his slain colleague, Father Rene Robert. Last summer, after a multi-state manhunt that started in Florida and stretched to South Carolina, police arrested Steven Murray in connection with the 71-year-old Robert's killing. Murray led authorities into the Georgia woods, where Robert's body lay. Police said Murray had asked Father Rene for a ride, then kidnapped and fatally shot him. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, a decision that Catholic officials from Georgia and Florida plan to protest on the courthouse steps. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Jan. 17, 2017 photo, Father Heriberto Vergara looks at a photograph of his slain colleague, Father Rene Robert in St. Augustine, Fla. Last summer, after a multi-state manhunt that started in Florida and stretched to South Carolina, police arrested Steven Murray in connection with the 71-year-old Robert's killing. Murray led authorities into the Georgia woods, where Robert's body lay. Police said Murray had asked Father Rene for a ride, then kidnapped and fatally shot him. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, a decision that Catholic officials from Georgia and Florida plan to protest on the courthouse steps. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)

    In this Jan. 17, 2017 photo, Father Heriberto Vergara looks at a photograph of his slain colleague, Father Rene Robert in St. Augustine, Fla. Last summer, after a multi-state manhunt that started in Florida and stretched to South Carolina, police arrested Steven Murray in connection with the 71-year-old Robert's killing. Murray led authorities into the Georgia woods, where Robert's body lay. Police said Murray had asked Father Rene for a ride, then kidnapped and fatally shot him. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty, a decision that Catholic officials from Georgia and Florida plan to protest on the courthouse steps. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)  (The Associated Press)

  • TIME RELASE FOR SUNDAY JAN 29 AT 0800 ET**FILE-This undated file photo provided by St. Johns County Sheriffs Office via Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows Father Rene Wayne Robert, a Roman Catholic priest in Florida whose body was found in rural east Georgia, in 2016. Robert devoted his life to helping society's most troubled people, a mission that continues even after his death. The priest signed a "Declaration of Life" insisting that in the event of his murder, his killer should not face execution. (FHSMV/St. Johns County Sheriffs Office via AP, File)

    TIME RELASE FOR SUNDAY JAN 29 AT 0800 ET**FILE-This undated file photo provided by St. Johns County Sheriffs Office via Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, shows Father Rene Wayne Robert, a Roman Catholic priest in Florida whose body was found in rural east Georgia, in 2016. Robert devoted his life to helping society's most troubled people, a mission that continues even after his death. The priest signed a "Declaration of Life" insisting that in the event of his murder, his killer should not face execution. (FHSMV/St. Johns County Sheriffs Office via AP, File)  (The Associated Press)

A Catholic priest found fatally shot in the Georgia woods asked prosecutors in a letter before his death not to seek capital punishment should his killer be convicted.

Church officials are citing a legal "Declaration of Life" document that the Rev. Rene Robert signed before his slaying as they lobby against capital punishment for Steven Murray, a repeat offender the priest had befriended.

Prosecutors have decided to seek the death penalty as they prepare to try Murray for the slaying of the priest who picked him up for a ride in Jacksonville, Florida.

Murray said the priest would have forgiven him, so the state should as well.