Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Former Priest Convicted in Murder for Hire Plot

John Fiala. Police photo.

In November, 2010, former Roman Catholic priest John Fiala met with a hit man and gave him $5,000 to murder a 16-year-old member of Sacred Heart of Mary Parish in Edwards County, Tex..  The boy had accused Fiala of sexual assault and Fiala wanted him done away with; he instructed the hit man to “chop off his head.”  The conversation was video recorded — and played in court yesterday — because the supposed hit man was an undercover police officer.  Fiala was arrested on November 18.

When asked by his attorney why he gave the specific instruction to decapitate the boy, Fiala replied “that’s what Scottie told me to say.”  Scottie Fisher was Fiala’s neighbor, and, Fiala claimed, the hit man’s brother.  According to Fiala, Scottie had told him that if he didn’t follow through on the hit, the hit man would come after him instead.  According to his attorney, Rex Gunter, Fiala never meant to have the boy killed.  ”Just saying the words doesn’t show intent,” he said in his closing argument.  The prosecution, however, painted Fiala as a “puppeteer” who was distraught by the accusations of sexual assault against him.

A jury of nine men and three women convicted Fiala of solicitation to commit capital murder after a few hours of deliberation.  The punishment phase of his trial is now underway; he faces life in prison.  Fiala is also charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.  In a lawsuit filed by the boy’s family, Fiala is accused of forcing the teen to have sex at gunpoint. The abuse is alleged to have taken place in 2007 and 2008.

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