MORRISTOWN - A jury has convicted a former janitor ofmurder in the fatal stabbing of a northern New Jersey priest.

The panel in Morris County reached its verdict in the trial of Jose Feliciano after about five hours of deliberations spanning yesterday and today.

Feliciano didn't deny stabbing Rev. Edward Hinds to death in the rectory of St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Chatham in 2009.

But the Easton, Pa. resident's lawyer told jurors during closing arguments on Monday that Feliciano was being sexually blackmailed by Hinds and killed him in a fit of rage.

"I am proud and honored to have been part of a process to vindicate Father Hinds' murder and the slander of his reputation, which obviously the jury soundly did not believe, Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi said in a written statement today. "I can think of no greater Christmas gift to Father Hinds' soul, and for those that loved and respected him that this conviction happens at Christmas time."

The prosecution said the janitor "slaughtered" the priest after Hinds fired him because the priest had discovered Feliciano had an outstanding arrest warrant in Philadelphia from the 1980s for sexually touching a child.

. Feliciano will be sentenced in February. He faces 30 years to life on the murder charge.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.