A TRUE STORY                

… a plea by a priest to save the life of the man who murdered him


 

In April of 2016 a Catholic priest in Florida, Fr. Rene Robert, was brutally murdered. He is described as a “man of God” who ministered to those cast aside by society - often riding a bicycle because he had loaned his car to those who needed it.  

It was through his outreach to prisoners and ex-convicts that Fr. Rene met Steven Murray, the young man who would eventually murder him.

Soon after prosecutors in the case announced they would be seeking a death penalty, Fr. Rene's secretary happened to stumble upon a notarized document he had signed more than 20 years earlier ... indicating that, if he ever dies in a violent way, his killer should NEVER BE GIVEN THE DEATH PENALTY.

It’s a true story of murder AND OF MERCY that became a national news event.  Here's a link to one of the reports CBS News did regarding the crime:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/steven-murray-accused-priest-killer-rene-robert-death-penalty/




Fr. Rene’s death is the subject of a new film titled WHERE THERE IS DARKNESS which also focuses on the horrific circumstances in which Steven Murray was raised leading to his committing the murder.

___________________



I play the priest in the film which is still in production in Florida where Fr. Rene lived. 

Here's the initial trailer ...


It's been a great experience - I got to baptize a baby for one thing … FOUR TIMES in fact - the same baby  (because I couldn’t get the words & physical movements down right).  There was a real priest standing by instructing me on how to do it - and luckily it was a beautiful cooperative baby girl I was dealing with who didn’t mind me putting all that cold water on her head.   

Also got to anoint an elderly lady (an actress playing like she was sick in bed) ...covered a sleeping guy on the street (an actor) ... gave soup to a hungry surfer dude under a bridge at the beach (NOT an actor) ... and money to a poor guyt living outside behind a convenience store (NON-ACTOR – and a fascinating story teller).  

While wearing the priestly collar and clothes I was hoping someone might want me to hear their confession, but that didn't happen. 

But, because I was also wearing a NY YANKEES cap, as Fr. Rene often did, a couple of people stopped me in a restaurant and asked me to pray for the MIAMI MARLINS baseball team.  (I told them I was actually a Denver Broncos football fan.) .

Oh, yeah, I also got to ride a bicycle a lot like Fr. Rene did.  Hadn’t been on one in a long time and forgot how much fun bicycling is.

THE CRIME

According to testimony, Fr. Rene was held captive in the trunk of his car while Steven drove several hundred miles into Georgia.  After letting him out in a secluded forested area Steven then fired a pistol at the priest but missed him by hitting a nearby tree.  His second shot hit Fr. Rene in his side -  and after he fell, a third shot went to his head.

It was fascinating how all this was recreated for the film.  For the first shot a small hole was drilled through the tree next to me and the sawdust that came from it was replaced back into the cavity.  Then an air hose was attached to the other side of the tree.  When the director shouted BANG a burst of air was sent through the tree blowing out the sawdust and making it look like the tree had just been hit by a bullet.     

Similarly, when I was to be shot, a hose was attached to a small hole under my jacket.  It not only contained air but also a bright red liquid.  This time when the director shouted BANG, "blood" quickly spurted out of my side as I fell to the ground.

After that there was quite a bit of re-positioning for the lights & cameras and blood was placed on my head for the third shot.   It seemed like a long time I had to play dead with my eyes open ... and, yeah, the thought crossed my mind about whether bugs and ants might be making their homes in my clothes.

On a serious note … I prayed a lot during filming this movie – asking Fr. Rene to jump into my body and help me tell his story.  And, I think he actually DID in one particular scene ... a very emotional experience for me and for Eric Newcombe (the fantastic young actor who played the murderer).

In this scene I was lying on my back inside the trunk of a Toyota (the same color and kind of car Fr. Rene drove), and Eric was standing behind it talking to me through the open trunk door - YELLING at me as if I were his character’s abusive father – LOTS OF PROFANITY.  At the same time I’m trying to reason with him and am afraid of dying ... and I’m praying and screaming:  “HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE”!


After the scene was over we both were crying pretty hard and hugged for a long time trying to come back down to reality as "just being actors"!

I've never experienced
   anything quite like that.

Dick McMahon
 


Camera crew and SWAT team after filming reenactment of capturing the murderer.