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'Person of Interest' arrested; Florida priest s

Posted at 12:02 PM, Apr 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-14 12:02:27-04

MIAMI (AP) -- South Carolina law enforcement authorities said Thursday that a "person of interest" was arrested while driving a car belonging to a missing Roman Catholic priest - 300 miles from where he disappeared in St. Augustine, Florida.

Steven James Murray, 28, was arrested in Aiken, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, authorities said. The car belonged to the Rev. Rene Robert, 71, who has not been seen since Sunday.

Agencies "are starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together" but have still don't know Robert's whereabouts, Commander Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns Sheriff's Office in Florida said in a phone call. He said Robert's disappearance is considered foul play.

Aiken County Sheriff's spokesman Eric Abdullah wrote in an statement that deputies and U.S. marshals responded to Murray's last known location Wednesday afternoon. As they approached the 2012 blue Toyota Corolla with Florida license plates, Murray drove away and crashed into a tree, then fled on foot, Abdullah wrote. Bloodhounds and a helicopter tracked Murray down and he was arrested, according to the statement.

Murray is charged with aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude. Records don't indicate whether he's hired an attorney to contact for comment on the case.

Robert is listed as a senior priest for the Diocese of St. Augustine. Sheriff David Shoar posted a message on his office's official Facebook page: "I want to reassure you that from the moment we became aware of Father Rene dropping out of contact, we at the Sheriff's Office have been working literally non-stop and will continue to do so until we achieve some form of closure."

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Associated Press reporter Jack Jones in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.

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