Dwight Mitchell Bell, 41, a man convicted of killing his own father and shooting his estranged girlfriend in 1999, has confessed to the "hideous" murder of Ruthie Carolyn New, a 70-year-old widow who was found dead in her Somerset, Kentucky, church last month.
"Bell was arrested on a warrant obtained by Somerset Police for the theft of Ruthie Carolyn New's automobile. While Bell was detained in Dandridge, Somerset Police Detectives conducted an interview with Bell in which Bell confessed to the murder of Ms. New. As a result Detectives obtained a warrant of arrest for Bell on the charges of Murder and Robbery 1st. Bell waived his extradition in Tn. and was transported back to Somerset by Officers of the Somerset Police Department," Somerset Police said in a statement.
Bell is currently in custody with no bond.
Ruthie's husband, the late J.S. New, pastored Denham Street Baptist Church for 40 years up until his death five years ago, said the Commonwealth Journal. Even after his death, however, the faithful widow helped clean the church.
"She supported me, supported the new pastor, supported my wife," Pastor Jeff Griffith, who took over the church after New's husband, said. "She was 100 percent a Christian lady."
An arrest warrant cited by LEX said Bell was at a Pilot Travel Center when he was arrested. It noted that he was also wanted in Henry County, Indiana, on a strangulation charge.
The arrest and confession comes just a day after the widow's son, Jonathan New, revealed on Monday how he was involved in "powerful prayer" at the church.
"We had a powerful prayer this morning at the Denham Street Baptist Church Activity Center. After everyone left, I stayed and shot hoops for a bit just like I did when mom was there cleaning. Psalms 62:6 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved," Jonathan wrote in a Facebook post.
On Wednesday, Jonathan and his brother Richard told WKYT that they were relieved by the arrest.
"Finally. Some closure. And the safety for the public," they said. "That this man was off the streets. And whatever involvement and so on...at least he was secure and behind bars. This is the person of interest involved in all of this."
Bell, they explained, was often seen around the church seeking help.
"Just from what I have been told he started coming to the church, attended a few services, was a person in need, needed a place to stay," Jonathan said.
Court records highlighted by WKYT said in October 1999, Bell pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of his father, Roger Bell. The troubled man reportedly shot his father in the back of the head with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot his estranged girlfriend as well.
He was sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence but was paroled in June 2005 after the Department of Corrections gave him 233 days of credit for time-served before his conviction.
By April 2008, however, he was back in prison for a parole violation and he remained incarcerated until October 1, 2012, when he was released on supervision. His supervision ended in March 2013.
Police did not reveal New's cause of death because the investigation into her death is still active but Pulaski County Coroner Clyde Strunk, who knew the late pastor's wife personally, called the crime "hideous."
"When we see these kinds of hideous crimes, it makes us back up and realize that we're living in troubled times," Strunk said. "The church family is hurting. Our whole community is hurting because she was loved and respected so much."