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Cops: Suspect in killing answered 911 call

Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi holds up a photo of Jose Feliciano.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi holds up a photo of Jose Feliciano.
  • Victim called 911, said he was being attacked before call cut off, prosecutor says
  • Janitor beat, stabbed Rev. Ed Hinds after dispute over employment, prosecutor says
  • Suspect Jose Feliciano has worked at the church for 17 years, police say
  • Pastor died of multiple stab wounds, blood spatters indicate fight, authorities say

Chatham Borough, New Jersey (CNN) -- The janitor charged in the slaying of a priest answered a call from a 911 operator and said, "Everything's fine," according to police.

Jose Feliciano stabbed the Rev. Ed Hinds 32 times with a knife after the two got into an argument on Thursday, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said. The Roman Catholic priest's body was found in the rectory of at St. Patrick's Church on Friday morning.

Feliciano, 64, has been employed with the church for 17 years, Bianchi said.

Feliciano also faces two weapons charges, Bianchi said at a news conference.

It was not immediately known whether the janitor had retained legal counsel.

When the janitor was interviewed Saturday, after waiving his Miranda rights, he "confessed to the murder of Father Hinds," an arrest affidavit said.

The priest's body was discovered Friday morning in the rectory kitchen by Feliciano and others, according to the affidavit. An autopsy had concluded that Hinds died of "multiple sharp force injuries."

Hinds had stab wounds to his upper torso and the back of his head, Bianchi said. The priest also had defensive wounds on his hands and contusions and bruises to his face, he said.

Hinds called 911 from his cell phone at 5:11 p.m. Thursday, saying he was being attacked and asking for help, Bianchi said.

The call was cut off and the 911 operator called back, Bianchi said. He said Feliciano answered the phone.

The operator couldn't send authorities because the calls were made from a cell phone and could not be traced, Bianchi said.

Feliciano "made a half-hearted attempt to do CPR in front of police. They said it was bizarre. He made about two or three compressions and said something like, 'he's dead,'" Bianchi told CNN.

The affidavit said authorities discovered that Hinds' cell phone had been used in Easton, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles west of Chatham. Further investigation led them to a garbage can in a park there, where a T-shirt and rags "saturated with what appeared to be blood" were found, the affidavit said.

The garbage can was about 50 yards from Feliciano's home, it said.

Feliciano told police that he entered the rectory around 5 p.m. Thursday, where he and the priest argued, the affidavit said.

The two men got into an argument "over Feliciano's continued employment," Bianchi told CNN.

He said Feliciano "beat him up first, there was also bruising on his face," said the prosecutor.

Feliciano left Hinds on the kitchen floor and went into the church to get a kitchen "steak or paring" knife, and returned and stabbed the priest, the prosecutor said.

After the slaying, Feliciano said he cleaned up the blood with rags and paper towels and put them in a black bag, which he put in the trash can, the affidavit said.

Feliciano also said he threw away the knife after returning home and destroyed Hinds' cell phone.

Bianchi said the suspected weapon was found in a field near Feliciano's home.

Hinds also oversaw the church's Catholic grade school.

"When you're the sole pastor and you do most of the baptisms and weddings and funerals, people end up loving you. This will be a big loss for the parish and a big loss for the diocese," said the Rev. Paul Manning from the Archdiocese of Paterson, New Jersey.

CNN's Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.