A North Carolina pastor was hospitalized after his 76-year-old wife was kidnapped then burned alive in their home Friday by intruders who authorities say are still on the loose.
A WRAL report said two masked assailants entered the home of Pastor John Alford of Sanford Memorial Baptist Church and his wife Nancy, who taught Sunday School at the church, on Friday morning. One of the intruders then kidnapped Nancy and drove her to a State Employees' Credit Union branch in Roanoke Rapids and forced her to withdraw about $1,000 from an ATM. The second attacker held the pastor inside the home, according to Warren County Sheriff Johnnie Williams.
Nancy Alford was later driven back to her home where the assailants beat up her husband then tied up the elderly couple and set their house on fire. The suspects then took off with the couple's gray 2010 Mercedes-Benz. The pastor managed to escape the burning home then tried to return for his wife but was prevented by neighbors who found him.
"He was all swollen up. He was bleeding from his nose," neighbor Shelly Thompson told WRAL. "He was trying to go back in for his wife."
As news of the attack on the respected couple spread, many at their church were left in shock on Sunday.
"They'd give you the shirt off their back," Deacon Buck Gittman told WSPA of the couple. "Why would they be subject to such a heinous act? All they had to do was ask and they would've been given keys to the Mercedes and the Suburban."
Deborah Cox, one of Nancy's students said: "It's a lot of grief that we're not gonna have her anymore, but of course, knowing that she has a home with Jesus and she will finally get her questions answered, that is a comfort."
Another student grieved the attack on the couple as "an evil thing."
"This was an evil thing that happened and John and Nancy were such (that) I can only imagine while they were going through this terrible ordeal that John Alford was trying to save these people," the student said.
The grieving church members said they have prayed for their pastor and his departed wife as well as their attackers.
"We know Satan is evil and we're not gonna let that prevail and overcome us," Gittman said.
The couple had lived in their home near Lake Gaston for nearly 40 years, their unidentified nephew, who searched for belongings to salvage for the pastor, said Saturday. The nephew said he spent many summers at the home.
A statement from the Concord Baptist Association on Saturday said Pastor John Alford was now in stable condition and asked for prayers for his family.
"John is in stable condition with 2nd degree burns and there is some difficulty keeping him hydrated. The church met tonight to plan a prayer service for tomorrow. During their meeting, they were able to speak to John over the phone and he was able to say a few words to them. Continue to pray for John, his family, and the Sanford Memorial family," the statement said.