A community in Georgia is reeling after a pastor was allegedly murdered by a man she was mentoring.
According to CBN News, Police found the body of Marita Harrell inside her van last week. The 57-year-old led Connections at Metropolitan UMC in Atlanta, Georgia. Police said she was stabbed to death and then lit on fire.
The suspect in the murder, Christopher Griggs, has been arrested and charged with arson and murder.
Police say Griggs stabbed Harrell with a large kitchen knife at his home before moving her body to a secluded area and setting her van on fire.
“At a spiritual level, you’re asking God, ‘Why? Why her?’” said Vincente Scott, Harrell’s longtime friend. “She was doing your work.
“If you knew her, she was offering advice, offering encouragement,” he said. “The world has missed a great contributor to the civilizing process. If anything else, Marita was about improving individuals and improving society.”
Harrell had been mentoring Griggs, who is 27. Her daughter told reporters she knew her mother was working with Griggs, who had been in and out of jail.
“She had an open, wonderful, and accepting heart, and she was always willing to learn about new people, and she loved people,” her daughter, Alyse, said.
Harrell was married with two children. She had a Master’s of Divinity degree from Emory University and was commissioned as a provisional elder in 2019.
“She was passionate about what she did, which was helping those who are lost and left out,” said the Rev. Dr. Michael T. McQueen, a local UMC official. “She was doing what she loved to do. That’s what makes this so tragic.”
Connections at Metropolitan UMC held a dedication service for Harrell over the weekend. Church members talked about how they were thankful for her work.
“We were angry, we were hurt, we asked questions,” church member Dorris Bolden said, “but as believers, as children of God, we know what He is, as I said, the great I am, and we just look to Him.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kayla James
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.