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

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A metro Atlanta pastor was stabbed to death and left in a van by a man she was trying to help, police say.

Marita Harrell, 57, was a senior pastor at Connections at Metropolitan United Methodist Church.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Christopher Griggs, 27, was arrested in her death.

Detectives believe she was fatally stabbed to death at Griggs’ home along Panola Road on or before May 18.


Her body was then transported to a vehicle, according to police.

Channel 2′s Tom Jones talked to her family, who said Harrell just wanted to help Griggs find salvation and that she was always helping uplift residents in the community, even going as so far as to raise money for them and pay their bills.

Family members said some people took advantage of her generous spirit.

Harrell’s daughter told Jones that Griggs was in and out of jail and Harrell was counseling him, trying to help him get his life in order. Warrants reveal he stabbed her to death with a kitchen knife and then set her on fire.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Officers said he then took the pastor’s body and her van to a remote area on Coffee Road.

Anthony Muhammad lives near the scene and said he heard a woman making loud noises in the area where the pastor’s van was found that night. He thought it was coyotes.

And not until I heard the voices saying, ‘Stop!’ That’s when I knew it was a person,” Muhammad said.

He said about ten minutes later, more than a dozen police cars and an ambulance showed up. He said police did not tell him the pastor’s body was in the van.

Griggs was arrested on May 19 and is currently being held in the Dekalb County Jail.