Police: Pastor killed fiancee's daughter for sexual fantasy

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BROOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- A Michigan pastor accused of beating and strangling his fiancee's daughter to fulfill a sexual fantasy had asked church members to pray for the young woman before police found her body, a friend said Friday.

Ex-convict John D. White knew the victim, Rebekah Gay, 24, and regularly watched her 3-year-old son while she worked, friend Donna Houghton said. White even told investigators that after killing Ms. Gay and dumping her body, he returned to her mobile home to dress the boy in a Halloween costume before taking the youngster to his father, authorities said.

White was in jail without bond Friday, a day after he was charged with first-degree murder in Ms. Gay's death in a rural area in Isabella County, 85 miles northwest of Lansing.

White said he drank four or five beers before going to Ms. Gay's mobile home and repeatedly striking her head with a mallet and strangling her with a zip tie, according to a court filing. He said he stripped her but does not remember if he carried out his fantasy of having sex with her dead body.

"It's a crazy, tragic situation," Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said in an interview. He said White confessed after investigators told him that Ms. Gay's body was likely to deteriorate in the cold, wet weather.

Ms. Houghton, who had a role in hiring White three years ago to be pastor at Christ Community Fellowship, a church with just 14 members, said she and others are "absolutely floored."

Ms. Houghton said White had planned to marry Ms. Gay's mother, who regularly attended his Sunday sermons. She said White and Ms. Gay lived in the same mobile home park in Broomfield Township.

White led investigators to Ms. Gay's body in a wooded area a half-mile away. He told authorities that after killing her in the wee hours Wednesday, he dressed her son, Conway, for Halloween and took the boy to meet his father in a store parking lot.

White "really liked this young man," said the sheriff, who added that the suspect occasionally ferried the child to the father, who had joint custody with Ms. Gay. "I don't think the father thought anything was unusual," Sheriff Mioduszewski said. But that changed when Ms. Gay didn't appear in the same parking lot later Wednesday to pick up Conway, the sheriff said.

Ms. Houghton said she spoke to White before he was arrested. He had called her to ask that she contact other church members and start a prayer chain for Ms. Gay, who still was regarded as missing at the time. "He was pretty shook up. He said the police were giving him a hard time," Ms. Houghton said.

She said the tiny congregation was aware of White's criminal past when he joined the church. He was released from prison in 2007 after serving nearly 12 years for manslaughter in the death of a 26-year-old woman in Kalamazoo County, according to the state Corrections Department. White also was sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981.

"He was absolutely contrite," said Ms. Houghton, 76. "All kinds of people turn around and meet the Lord, and they are a different person. ... He was doing a lot of good, and Satan did not want him doing good, and Satan got to him."



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