GRAND BAY, Ala. (AP) — A Buddhist monk who had recently put himself into self-imposed isolation was accused Friday of fatally bludgeoning the religious leader of a Grand Bay temple.
Vern Phdsamay, 32, was arrested Friday and charged with killing 45-year-old Chaiwat Moleechate, said Sgt. Paul Burch of the Mobile County Sheriff's Office. The killing happened around 10 a.m. at the Wat Buddharaksa Temple, which primarily serves Thai and Laotian immigrants.
Burch told The Mobile Press-Register (http://bit.ly/IVtKrI ) that investigators found a witness and were seeking a Laotian interpreter to help interview that person.
It was not immediately clear Saturday whether Phdsamay had a defense attorney. An initial court hearing has been scheduled for Monday morning, according to the sheriff's office.
The killing shocked members of the temple.
"I can't believe it," said Sasikant Noreross, who gathered Friday at the temple with other members.
Noreross said that Phdsamay is from Laos and had recently stopped talking. He would lock himself in his room for months, sneaking out only to get food. She said temple members had found counseling and meditation therapy for the man, but he slipped back into isolation over the past two months.
In a 2010 interview, Moleechate told the Press-Register that he grew up poor in Thailand and started his religious studies as a 12-year-old. He became a monk at age 21.
He said he emphasized meditation and chanting to instill calmness.
"We try to lead the Buddhist people to meditate," Moleechate said. "To cool down, to slow down. The clear mind. The pure mind."