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Police make arrest in pastor’s slaying (UM News)

May 20, 2022

Many are mourning the Rev. Marita Y. Harrell, a 57-year-old United Methodist pastor in Atlanta who was stabbed to death earlier this week.

Police in DeKalb County, part of the Metropolitan Atlanta area, issued a statement May 20 saying they have arrested Christopher Griggs, 27, and obtained warrants against him for murder and arson. Griggs is being held in the DeKalb County Jail.

The statement says Griggs stabbed Harrell at his Dekalb County residence on or before May 18, then transported her in a vehicle to another location, where she was eventually discovered.

One quoted investigators as saying Harrell had been trying to mentor and counsel the suspect.

North Georgia Conference Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson issued a statement May 20:

“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.”

Harrell was a lifelong Methodist and Chicago native who relocated to Atlanta more than 30 years ago and completed an undergraduate degree at Emory University, according to her church webpage bio.

Before entering ministry, she worked for 22 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as a call center manager in the advertising department and a diversity training facilitator.

The newspaper was among the media outlets covering her slaying.

She earned her Master of Divinity degree from Emory’s Candler School of Theology in 2014. She was licensed to preach in The United Methodist Church in 2015, and conference records show she had gone on to become a provisional elder.

Haupert-Johnson said the North Georgia Conference would focus on offering care and support for Harrell’s family and congregation, as well as for clergy colleagues.

“In the coming days, we will share additional grief and trauma resources as well as ways to celebrate Marita’s life. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers,” the bishop said.