WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Officials say the Waveland man charged with murdering a priest Sunday wasn't just running from the law when he headed to Florida. He was taking his two kids, and his ex-wife to Disneyworld.
The Polk County SWAT Team arrested Jeremy Wayne Manieri, 31, early Tuesday morning at a Days Inn in Davenport, FL. Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Department said he was arrested without incident, and confessed to killing Father Edward Everitt.
"You got a ten-year-old child and five-year-old baby, and it's sad for them, because they think they're coming down here to go to Disney, and they have no idea about all of this murder and stolen vehicle and all of that sort of thing," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told WTVM television in Tampa.
Officials believe Manieri's ex-wife, like the children, knew nothing of the homicide.
Detectives said tracking Manieri wasn't hard because the priest's car, which was stolen from the murder scene, was equipped with the vehicle security system OnStar. Officials said they were able to track the 2011 silver Chevrolet HHR all the way to their suspect.
Knowing their suspect was in custody in Florida, Waveland investigators spent Tuesday trying to figure out why someone would want to kill a 70-year-old priest.
Father Ed, as he was affectionately known, led the congregation of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond, Louisiana. He was in Waveland, staying at a beach side home used by priests.
Police said Manieri was a handy man for the retreat house and did odd jobs at the Dominican retreat. A spokesman from the Dominican Province said Manieri was not employed by the church, but Father Everitt would pay him out of his own pocket.
Waveland Police Chief Jimmy Varnell said they believe robbery was the motive for the killing, so the charges will likely be upgraded to capital murder.
Authorities said this is not Manieri's first arrest. He is a registered sex offender after a 2006 conviction of child molestation.
"It was a family member," Varnell said about the molestation at a press conference.
Chief Varnell said Manieri was also wanted in Florida for a grand theft auto in Escambia County.
"He does have a pretty extensive criminal history in Georgia, Alabama, Florida," Varnell said.
Part-time Waveland resident Dean Orr said, "It's too close for comfort."
None of the people with vacation homes near the priest retreat knew Father Ed; still they are in shock.
"I think this is devastating; [it] surely shook me," Orr said. "I've already called the security system to have one installed."
"I was shocked because it's always been such a quiet secure peaceful neighborhood," Waveland resident Grayson Richard said.
Manieri is currently being held in the Polk County jail awaiting extradition to Mississippi.