French Church Slaying Suspect Under ProbeAug 18, 7:07 PM (ET)
By CECILE ROUX
PARIS (AP) - A Romanian woman suspected of killing the 90-year-old founder of an ecumenical Christian community was placed under formal investigation, a step short of being charged, prosecutor Jean-Louis Coste said Thursday.
At the Church of Reconciliation where the Tuesday night stabbing occurred, scores of mourners filed past the white-robed body of Brother Roger, who was to be buried next week in the cemetery of the Burgundy village of Taize where he founded his community in 1940.
Faithful, nuns and children filed past the body of Brother Roger for an initial viewing, to be spread out over five days.
Witnesses allege that the woman slipped into a choir of singing monks during an evening prayer service at the church and fatally slit Brother Roger's throat.
Judge Pascale Sappey-Guesdon placed the 36-year-old suspect under investigation for premeditated murder - a step short of being charged. Authorities have not provided her name. However, Romanian media identified her as Luminita Solcan, from the northeast city of Iasi.
"She knew what she was doing," prosecutor Jean-Louis Coste said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
An autopsy Wednesday found two stab wounds, one superficial, while the other severed Brother Roger's trachial artery and a tendon - a wound caused by a "violent and voluntary blow, not an accidental one," Coste said.
The woman had bought the knife the previous day, he said. But she "has not for now admitted to dealing the fatal blow," Coste added.
"She has maintained her initial explanation: 'I simply wanted to attract his attention and if there was such a serious blow, it's not me,'" the prosecutor quoted the suspect as saying.
A preliminary psychiatric exam concluded she suffered paranoiac delusions, Coste said.
Witnesses described a horrific and chaotic scene.
"It happened very fast. There were some screams. We turned around. He was wounded," said Brother Emile, who witnessed the slaying. "We carried him out of the church so people didn't see the terrible part ... She slit his throat."
Bleeding profusely, he died 15 minutes later, Brother Emile said.
Tributes to the silver-haired cleric who symbolized dialogue across the Christian world poured in to the tranquil Taize Community, snuggled in a Burgundy village north of Lyon.
Pope Benedict XVI praised Brother Roger in a telegram of condolence as a "tireless witness of the Gospel of peace and reconciliation."
"The Holy Father joins in prayer the brothers of the Taize community as well as all those touched by mourning, and entrusts to the Lord that they find the strength to follow the work of reconciliation begun by Brother Roger," said the telegram sent by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, earlier called the killing "an indescribable shock."
Born of a Swiss Protestant father and a French Catholic mother, Brother Roger Schutz moved to Taize in 1940 with plans to found a monastery. He harbored Jewish refugees during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II and later built the ecumenical Taize Community with a mission to reconcile all Christian denominations and promote dialogue and peace.
Brother Alois, a 51-year-old German Roman Catholic, was appointed by the Taize community to succeed its leader, said Brother Emile.
Alois, born in Stuttgart, had initially been selected eight years ago by Brother Roger. He arrived in Taize early Wednesday, called back from the huge Roman Catholic gathering underway in Cologne, Germany, known as World Youth Day.
The Taize community, which the late Pope John Paul II visited in 1986, each year draws some 100,000 people, about 17 to 30 years old.
Brother Roger's funeral was set for Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley in Paris and Constantin Mihai in Iasi contributed to this report.