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Houston Matters

Why Friends Of A Murdered Priest Fought To Keep His Killer Off Death Row

Houston’s Cimela Kidonakis discusses her documentary, Where There is Darkness.

Father Rene Robert, a Florida priest who was murdered in 2016. The quest to keep his killer off death row is chronicled in the film Where There Is Darkness.

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Where There Is Darkness Movie Poster

A documentary by a Houston filmmaker tells the story of a beloved priest who was murdered and the unusual situation that followed.

The film, called Where There is Darkness, tells the story of Father Rene Robert of St. Augustine, Fla.

In 1995, the priest signed a "Declaration of Life," stating that if he were ever murdered, he wouldn't want his killer to get the death penalty. But, more than two decades later, that's exactly what happened.

In 2016, Steven Murray, a troubled man whom the priest had helped numerous times, shot and killed Fr. Robert, leaving his body in the Georgia woods.

Steven Murray (right) appears in court in connection with the murder of Fr. Rene Robert.

The documentary tells the story of who Fr. Robert was, what he meant to the community, the story of Murray's difficult past, and the fight by Fr. Robert's many loved ones to keep the convicted murderer off death row.

In the audio above, co-director Cimela Kidonakis tells Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty about the film, which will be screened Friday, March 1, at the Prison City Film Festival in Huntsville. And again March 23 in Katy.

  • The memorial service for murdered Florida priest, Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
    The memorial service for murdered Florida priest, Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
  • Steven Murray (right) appears in court in connection with the murder of Fr. Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
    Steven Murray (right) appears in court in connection with the murder of Fr. Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
  • Steven Murray appears in court in connection with the murder of Fr. Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: WJBF-TV/Screen Capture)
    Steven Murray appears in court in connection with the murder of Fr. Rene Robert. (Photo Credit: WJBF-TV/Screen Capture)
  • Houstonian Cimela Kidonakis is the co-director of the documentary Where There Is Darkness, about the murder of a beloved Florida priest. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
    Houstonian Cimela Kidonakis is the co-director of the documentary Where There Is Darkness, about the murder of a beloved Florida priest. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty/Houston Public Media)
  • Cast and crew of the film Where There Is Darkness. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
    Cast and crew of the film Where There Is Darkness. (Photo Credit: Stella Mar Films)
Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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