New York City church officials called the police after a man suspected of killing his girlfriend in Ohio confessed to a priest that he was in fact guilty of the crime.
"Someone is dead, and I feel really bad about it," 48-year-old Jonathan Smith reportedly shared with a priest who was not named from the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Manhattan.
"He just grabbed a priest and said, 'I want to tell you something,'" added another clergyman from the same church, who decided to remain anonymous.
Smith was later arrested after church officials called the police. He reportedly had admitted to having bludgeoning his girlfriend 500 miles away in Ohio on July 14, although it is not known whether he gave a reason for his actions. Law enforcement agencies confirmed that they had found his girlfriend, Darlene Hart, 48, dead in their three-bedroom house in Columbus, the New York Post reported.
Smith allegedly had even tried to set a fire in the house to destroy evidence, although he was unsuccessful. After the incident, his Acura car was found at West 40th Street in New York City, and it was towed but never reclaimed. Police suspect the man had been staying at a homeless shelter while in the city.
Catholic priests are barred from sharing any information they receive during confessionals with outside sources, but the church was quick to explain that Smith had not approached a priest during the confessional and his main motive was to tell someone and turn himself in.
It was the man's desire to turn himself in," St. Francis shared. "If someone is going down the street and happens to say, 'Hi, Father, I killed Bob,' that's another thing entirely," said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the New York Archdiocese.
The mother of the victim shared with the New York Post that she is glad Smith had turned himself in and had not resorted to suicide.
"I'm glad he did not kill himself," said Phyllis Hart, 69. "I want him to go to jail and think about this." She added that she suspects jealousy might have been the prime reason that drove Smith to allegedly kill her daughter, whom she said had more male friends than female friends.
A spokesman for St. Francis of Assisi declined to speak with The Christian Post.