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Minister Kills Himself In Car Crash Was Suspected Of Murdering, Robbing Parishioners

Associated Press

A minister bought a 10-cent bookmark inscribed with the 23rd Psalm, then smashed his car into a concrete barrier, killing himself on the day he was to be questioned about a double murder, police said Wednesday.

The Rev. James S. Castria, 45, pastor of the Faithful Gospel Church in Clifton, N.J., died Tuesday when his car rammed into a bridge abutment at 80 miles per hour, said Sgt. Rick Antero.

“The evidence … would suggest that it was a suicide,” Antero said.

Castria was due to meet with authorities in connection with the slayings of Lowell Engel, 68, and his wife, Susan, 50, whose bludgeoned bodies were found March 23 in the woods of the Poconos mountains, near Stroudsburg, Pa. Authorities believe they had been killed several weeks earlier.

The Engels disappeared from their home in the New York City borough of Staten Island in January after receiving an $85,000 inheritance. The Engels had shared a bank account with Castria.

Castria admitted to Pennsylvania state police that he stole $40,000 from the Engels, the Staten Island Advance reported Wednesday, citing unidentified police sources.

The minister was to meet with Pennsylvania State Police on Tuesday, but skipped the appointment, The New York Times reported.

Hours later, he stopped at the Faithful Source Bookstore in Mountain Lakes, about 15 miles from his home in Clifton, and asked for a bookmark with the Lord’s Prayer on it, Antero said.

“The clerk said ‘Will the 23rd Psalm do?’ And he said, ‘That’ll do just fine,”’ Antero said.

Castria walked out of the store with the bookmark reading “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want …,” got into his car and drove about 700 feet down the road, switching from lane to lane until he crashed into the abutment.

Castria performed the Engels’ marriage ceremony, and he delivered their eulogy, the newspapers said.

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