An arrest has been made after a brief manhunt for the suspected killer of a DeKalb County pastor.
DeKalb County police said at 10:25 p.m. Wednesday, officers arrived to the 1600 block of Coffee Road and found the van belonging to Marita Harrell. Inside, investigators said was the body of the 57-year-old pastor, dead from apparent stab wounds.
Harrell was the senior pastor at Connections at Metropolitan UMC, according to the church's website. A native of Chicago, she has spent the last three decades in metro Atlanta after earning a degree at Emory University.
In her bio, she described how she got the "calling," and would go on to get her Master of Divinity Degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2014. She was licensed to preach the following yea, and was commissioned a provisional elder in June 2019.
Investigators believe that Harrell was killed at a home along Panola Road then placed in her van and abandoned five miles away.
Detectives on the case used phone records to back track and trace Harrell's steps and found out the reverend had been mentoring and counseling 27-year-old Christopher Griggs at the home the same night she was found dead.
Police obtained a search warrant for the Panola Road address but did not find Griggs. They later talked to him via telephone and he agreed to come into the police station for questioning and/or turn himself in. He never showed up.
After a search, officers located and arrested Griggs. He's now in the DeKalb County Jail charged with murder and arson.
The reverend was pastor at Rivertown UMC from 2016 to 2018. Her former church posted the news on its Facebook page late Thursday night writing in part:
"Unfortunately, and with a truly heavy heart, I have the unpleasant task of relaying some heart-breaking news. I received an email from the district office informing us of the transition of Rev. Marita Harrell. No further details were given.
"I know the love Rivertown has for her, and the love she has for Rivertown. We are asked to be in prayer especially for her husband and daughter. Please keep the entire family in your prayers. May God' s comforting arms envelop her family, friends, and loved ones."
Rev. Harrell would also serve at the United Methodist Children’s Home from 2018 until she was appointed to serve as the assistant pastor at Newnan Chapel UMC in December 2019.
She is survived by her parents, Howard and Margie Roberts, of McDonough, her husband of 27 years, Antonio, and her two daughters, Marae and Alyse.
It is truly unfortunate that this woman who vowed to be an aide to the people lost her life in such a violent way. We pray for peace and comfort for her family, friends and church member who loved her dearly.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the DeKalb County Police Department at 770-724-7850.