A pastor in Atlanta was killed by a man that she mentored, WYFF reports.
Reverend Marita Harrell was stabbed several times and burned in a van a few miles from her home by DeKalb County according to authorities.
Christopher Devonta Griggs was charged with murder for allegedly attacking Harrell in his DeKalb County home.
Harrell was mentoring Griggs first while he was incarcerated in the Fulton County Jail, and then after he was released on bail pending multiple charges, according to Fox5 Atlanta. He had failed to show up for two hearings in Gwinnett County on unrelated charges in March and again on April 28. Several bench warrants were out for his arrest at the time of the murder.
Griggs is currently being held at a DeKalb County detention facility,
Harrell’s body was reportedly found by her husband and daughter by using an app to track her phone.
"I was there, and I still didn't believe it," Marae Harrell, her daughter, said in an interview with Atlanta television station WAGA-TV. "I was expecting her to wake up, open her eyes or move."
Harrell’s work with Griggs led to many disputes within the family.
"That was a point of contention between the two of us, between all of us, especially with this gentleman because he called two weeks ago," her husband Antonio Harrell said. "She told me, 'Antonio, God has placed these people in my life, I cannot turn away from them.'"
A police report obtained by Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA reveals that Antonio Harrell told police that he had told his wife "not to meet any more people who have just been released from jail for safety reasons.” Another friend also shared concerns for her safety.
Rev. Fleming Thompson Jr., the senior pastor of Rivertown United Methodist Church, where Harrell served from 2016 to 2018, wrote about the unspeakable tragedy on Facebook.
“I know the love Rivertown has for her, and the love she has for Rivertown,” Thompson wrote. “We are asked to be in prayer, especially for her husband and daughters.”
Before her untimely death, Harrell was a senior pastor at Connections at Metropolitan United Methodist Church.
According to her church website, Harrell was a Methodist, and was a member of Central United Methodist Church for more than 25 years. She began working in ministry after graduating from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2014.
She also served 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.
Harrell is survived by her parents, her husband of over 27 years and her two teenage daughters.
We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Pastor Marita Harrell.