WAVELAND, Miss. – A man accused of killing a Roman Catholic priest might have been in jail at the time if it weren't for a mix-up between the state's prisons and court systems, authorities told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Jeremy Wayne Manieri, 31, pleaded guilty to molesting a child in 2006 and was sentenced to two years in prison, with one year suspended. When he got out, he failed to register as a sex offender and wound up serving another 16 months for that before being sentenced to probation in February.
But he never reported to his probation officer, authorities said, a violation that could have sent him back to jail but went unnoticed.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections received the probation paperwork from the circuit clerk's office, "but a glitch in the computer system kept the information from being received by the probation officer, who was not at fault," prisons spokeswoman Tara Booth said.
The corrections department has now issued a warrant on the probation violation, Booth said.
Manieri is already jailed on a murder charge in the shooting of the Rev. Edward E. Everitt, a parish priest from Hammond, La. The 70-year-old's body was found July 11 at a beachfront home in Waveland; he appeared to have been shot twice in the head, police Chief James Varnell said.
Florida authorities arrested Manieri the next day at a hotel near Winter Haven. Officers said he had fled there in Everitt's car and bought passes to the Walt Disney World theme park but was captured before getting inside.
Polk County, Fla., Sheriff Grady Judd said Manieri gave a detailed confession, though Varnell said Manieri had quit cooperating by the time Mississippi detectives came to pick him up.
Manieri's attorney, Brian Alexander, said he had not yet met with his client and that police had not yet provided him with any evidence gathered in the case.
"''I understand the very natural urge to speculate about what happened but we would just ask for people to reserve judgment until they are aware of all the facts," he said.
Records show Manieri, who is due in court Thursday on charges of murder and grand larceny, served time for forgery in addition to the child molestation case.
Manieri's sister, JoEllen Manieri Maslow, said her family has serious doubts about the validity of the sex abuse accusations, and the judge and prosecutor involved also said there were problems with the case.
And the latest allegations stunned the people who knew him, and left them wondering if he was capable of shooting a priest.
"I only want the truth to come out, even if the truth is that my brother killed this man. You can't move on without the truth, and you can't have peace without it," Maslow said.
Manieri is accused of killing Everitt, better known to parishioners in Louisiana as Father Ed, at a beach house that priests used as a retreat. Authorities say Manieri shot him with the cleric's own .380-caliber pistol, then picked up his ex-wife and kids in Everitt's car and set out for the Disney vacation.
Manieri's family didn't know he was working at the beach house where Everitt's body was found, Maslow said, and she's not sure how he met the priest, who was pastor at Holy Ghost Church in Hammond, La., and Our Lady of Pompeii Church in nearby Tickfaw. The Dominican order operates the church and a school in the community about 50 miles northwest of New Orleans.
Everitt, a native of Houston, had been with the order since 1962 and a priest since 1968. Hundreds turned out Saturday for his funeral Mass.
Maslow said her family is mourning for the priest, too.
As for her brother, Maslow described him as full of contradictions, but not violent in the past.
"He was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it, but then he would turn around and steal from someone else who had more than he did," Maslow said.
Maslow said her younger brother was so gentle when he was younger that he wouldn't hunt, forsaking a popular tradition in the South, because he didn't want to kill animals. He was the kind of boy who would find a spider in the house and take it outside rather than kill it.
"I know that people want to see him as this monster, but he wasn't that way. He may have done a horrible thing — if he did do it — but he's not this horrible monster," she said.
Manieri's life began to change when he was in junior high, his sister said. He began hanging out with a bad crowd. They were caught vandalizing a house. Before long, he was doing drugs, she said.
Maslow said she distanced herself from her brother over the years because of the life he chose, but she still loves him.
"It's not my place to punish him for things he's done in his life," she said. "God will do that."
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