Pastor stabbed and set on fire by man she was trying to help, police say

Published: May. 22, 2022 at 10:31 AM PDT
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ATLANTA (CBS46/Gray News) - A Georgia pastor is dead after being stabbed and burned by a man she was trying to help, according to police.

The DeKalb County Police Department said 27-year-old Christopher Griggs stabbed 57-year-old Rev. Marita Harrell in his Atlanta home on Wednesday before abandoning her body on the side of a road.

Griggs stabbed Harrell with a large kitchen knife and set her on fire, according to warrants. Homicide detectives arrested Griggs on May 19 and charged him with murder and arson, WGCL reports.

Harrell was a senior pastor at Connections @ Metropolitan church. She moved to Atlanta over 30 years ago and was a member of Central United Methodist Church for over 25 years before she accepted God’s call on her life, according to the church’s website.

“At a spiritual level you’re asking ‘God, Why? What? Why her? She was doing your work,’” Vincente Scott, a close family friend, said.

Scott met Harrell in 1992. She was a Sunday school teacher at the time but worked her way up the ranks in the United Methodist Church. He said faith was everything to Harrell and that it was in her nature to want to help people.

“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.”

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church issued the following statement:

“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.”

Police confirmed that Harrell was “mentoring” Griggs at the time of her death. He’s currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail without bond.

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