A Georgia pastor has died after being stabbed and set on fire by a man she was trying to help, the police said. Christopher Griggs, 27, stabbed 57-year-old Rev. Marita Harrell in his Atlanta home on Wednesday and abandoned her body on the side of a road, according to the DeKalb County Police Department.
Harrell was meeting with Griggs, who was recently released from jail, for ministry work, her husband said to the police. She was found burned and dead in her vehicle. Griggs is accused of stabbing Harrell with a large kitchen knife before setting her on fire. He was arrested on May 19 and charged with murder and arson, WGCL reported.
Harrell, a senior pastor at Connections @ Metropolitan church and a native of Chicago Illinois, moved to Atlanta some 30 years ago after completing her undergraduate degree at Emory University. She was a member of Central United Methodist Church for over 25 years before she accepted God’s call on her life, per the church’s website. Before that, she was a 22-year veteran of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper where she worked in the advertising department as the Inbound Call Center Manager and a Diversity Training Facilitator.
Harrell graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University and earned her Master of Divinity Degree in May of 2014, and her License to Preach certification in 2015.
“At a spiritual level you’re asking ‘God, Why? What? Why her? She was doing your work,’” Vincente Scott, a close family friend, said. “If you knew her, she was offering advice, offering encouragement. The world has missed a great contributor to the civilizing process. If anything else, Marita was about improving individuals and improving society,” he added.
In a statement, Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church said: “I am broken-hearted since being informed of the death of Rev. Marita Harrell. It is a blow to our clergy family, especially since it appears she died at the hand of one she was helping. Marita was a friend and a shining light among us. I pray for her family, her church, and all who loved her. I am grateful that the Lord she represented so well was with her in all things and accompanied her to her eternal home. May His Spirit comfort those of us who remain.”
Griggs is being held at the DeKalb County Jail without bond, WAFB reported Sunday.