DeKalb County authorities in Georgia have arrested a former inmate now connected to the death of 57-year-old Rev. Martia Harrell.
The man, 27-year-old Christopher Griggs, allegedly stabbed Harrell at his home last week.
The senior pastor was reportedly visiting Griggs there and mentoring him as part of her work for a local church.
Authorities believe Griggs then put Harrell’s remains in a van and drove it to a remote location, where he set the vehicle on fire, according to PEOPLE.
Griggs is charged with one count of malice murder and one of first-degree arson. He appeared in court via a virtual hearing on May 21.
The former inmates’ history with the law includes charges of impersonating a police officer and sexual assault.
He’s currently in police custody at Dekalb County Jail.
Harrell’s husband Antonio and eldest daughter Marae became concerned about the pastor’s whereabouts when the latter didn’t return home from being with Griggs on Wednesday evening.
“That was a point of contention between the two of us, between all of us, especially with this gentleman because he called two weeks ago,” Antonio said of the family’s concerns regarding some of the people his wife mentored, particularly Griggs. “She told me, ‘Antonio, God has placed these people in my life, I cannot turn away from them.'”
Antonio and Marae tragically found Harrell’s remains after tracking the reverend’s phone last Wednesday.
“I was there, and I still didn’t believe it,” Marae told Fox 5 Atlanta, recalling that unimaginable moment. “I was expecting her to wake up, open her eyes or move.”
“She had an open, wonderful and accepting heart and she was always willing to learn about new people and she loved people,” remembered Harrell’s other daughter Alyse.
On Sunday, May 22, the congregation at Connections at Metropolitian UMC Church dedicated their service to Harrell, 11 Alive reports.
The churchgoers sang Harrell’s favorite hymnals and remembered the beloved reverend for the 30 years of dedicated service she did in the greater Atlanta community and United Methodist churches in Georgia, the local news source detailed.
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