A man from Stone Mountain, a city about 30 minutes from Atlanta, is facing murder charges after police said he fatally stabbed an Atlanta Pastor and abandoned her body in a vehicle several miles from his home.
On Wednesday, Rev. Marita Harrell, a senior pastor at Connections at Metropolitan United Methodist Church, was discovered along a secluded road near an industrial area outside Lithonia, DeKalb County, police spokesman Lt. Shane Smith said Friday.
Investigators believe Harrell was stabbed to death at the home of 27-year-old Christopher Devonta Griggs along Panola Road.
“He then transported her in a vehicle 1600 block of Coffee Road, where she was later discovered,” Smith said in an email.
DeKalb police issued warrants that charged Griggs with murder and arson in the 57-year-old’s death. Griggs was arrested Thursday evening and is being held without bond at the DeKalb jail, according to online records.
“As you can imagine, this is a very sad day for us,” said Sybil Davidson, spokeswoman for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
On Friday morning, the conference leader held a call and discussed ways to console congregants and friends devastated by the pastor’s death.
Tributes have poured in on social media as the news of Harrell’s death was shared online. Former colleagues and friends remembered her as a wonderful person and a “ray of sunshine” who brightened the lives of everyone she encountered.
According to the biography on her church’s website, Harrell was a Chicago native and moved to Atlanta more than 30 years ago. She was a wife and mother of two, and spent more than two decades at The Atlanta Journal-Consitution where she worked in the newspaper’s advertising department and as a diversity training facilitator.
“I know the love Rivertown has for her, and the love she has for Rivertown,” Rev. Fleming Thompson Jr. wrote. “We are asked to be in prayer, especially for her husband and daughters. Please keep the entire family in your prayers. May God’s comforting arms envelop her family, friends, and loved ones.”