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Judge says confession admissible in NJ priest slay trial

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey judge ruled on Thursday that the confession of a church janitor accused of killing a local priest can be admitted as evidence in his murder trial.

Defense attorneys for Jose Feliciano, 65, of Easton, Pennsylvania, had sought to have his confession thrown out because they said he had been misled into thinking his family would be taken care of if he confessed to the crime.

Feliciano is charged with murder and robbery in the October 22, 2009 stabbing death of Rev. Edward Hinds at St. Patrick's Church in Chatham, New Jersey.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been arguing for weeks over the admissibility of Feliciano's videotaped confession, which he made hours after the murder was committed.

On the videotape, Feliciano describes the stabbing to Captain Jeffrey Paul, an investigator with the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

Morris County Superior Court Judge Thomas Manahan issued his ruling on Thursday allowing the confession to be used at Feliciano's trial, a court clerk said.

Feliciano says on the tape that he and the priest argued when the janitor wanted to end what he said was a four-year sexual relationship.

He says on the tape that when he asked the priest "to let me be," the priest threatened to fire him. Feliciano says on the tape that he grabbed a knife and began stabbing Hinds until he was dead.

Neither the public defender assigned to the case nor prosecutors could be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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