BROOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — As police frantically worked to figure out how his fiancee's 24-year-old daughter had vanished, a Michigan pastor who had turned to God to shed his violent past went to his flock with a request: pray for her.
But all along, authorities say, he knew the sordid truth about where the young mother was.
The pastor, ex-convict John D. White, later confessed to killing Rebekah Gay to fulfill a fantasy of necrophilia, police said Friday. White drank four or five beers before going to the woman's mobile home and repeatedly striking her head with a mallet and strangling her with a zip tie, according to court documents.
Police said White stripped her body but does not remember if he carried out his sexual fantasy. After dumping the body early Wednesday, he returned to Gay's home and dressed her 3-year-old son in his Halloween costume, then later dropped him off with the boy's father.
"He kept saying he's a bad person, he's a pastor, he felt bad for the people in his church. … I don't recall him being real remorseful at all with regard to the victim or anything else," Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said.
White, 55, was in jail without bond Friday, a day after he was charged with first-degree murder in Gay's death in a rural area 85 miles northwest of Lansing.
White was engaged to Gay's mother and regularly watched Gay's young son while she worked, said Donna Houghton, a church elder who had a role in hiring White three years ago to be pastor at Christ Community Fellowship. Church members, she said, were "absolutely floored" by the allegations.
Houghton said the 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 Michigan Corrections Department.
He had previously been sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981.