VIDEO: Priest with local ties remembered by sister, alleged murderer speaks on camera

CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After the body of a priest with local ties was found in Georgia, his sister said her worst fears had come true.

Father Rene Robert had many ties to the Capital Region. He had been very active at St. Mary’s Church in Waterford and St. Augustine’s in Troy. His sister, Joan McAndrews, lives in Cambridge.

McAndrews said Father Rene will be remembered for his giving nature and counseling convicted criminals – something she said may have led to his murder.

“He just had such empathy for people,” she said.

Steven Murray in a South Carolina court room on Thursday, April 14.
Steven Murray in a South Carolina court room on Thursday, April 14.

McAndrews said her brother’s life’s work was doing God’s work. For him, that meant counseling convicted criminals. He would visit them behind bars and also help them on the outside, including men like Steven Murray.

Police believe Murray will likely be charged in Father Rene’s kidnapping and murder.

“Who could do something like that to a priest?” McAndrews wondered. “A priest who reached out to him and helped him, and then all of a sudden, the guy gets out of jail, and he does something like this?”

During a late night press conference in Florida, the St. Johns County sheriff said Father Rene’s body had been found in Georgia hundreds of miles away from his St. Augustine parish. Police said they were assisted by Murray himself.

“He had come to a point where he wanted us to find the body of Father Rene,” Sheriff David Shoar said.

As for McAndrews, all she has now are the memories and the mementos.

“I want them to remember my brother as a very kind person who would have forgiven this man,” she said. “I don’t know if I ever will, but he most likely would have forgiven this man given the opportunity.”

Memorial services will be held at his parish in St. Augustine. Fla. When his body is returned to New York, the funeral will take place at St. Mary’s in Waterford. McAndrews said he will be buried next to his parents nearby.


Pray For Father Rene Robert

A message from Diocese of St. Augustine:

We have launched a landing page in memory of Father Rene Robert (www.dosafl.com/fatherrene), which includes an official statement from Bishop Felipe Estévez, a link to submit your prayers and encouraging messages to the family of Father Rene, as well as some photos of Father Rene as we remember his faithful service to the Diocese of St. Augustine.

More information will be posted in the coming days, including details of a prayer service for the community and funeral Mass. We are deeply humbled by the continuous outpouring of love, prayers and support for Father Rene and his family. Thank you!

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