Atlanta pastor stabbed with kitchen knife and set on fire, according to warrant

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – A metro Atlanta pastor is dead after being stabbed by a man police said she was trying to help.

According to the DeKalb County Police Department, 27-year-old Christopher Griggs stabbed 57-year-old Marita Harrell in his residence in the 1300 block of Panola Road on Wednesday. He then took her body to the 1600 block of Coffee Road and left her there.

Griggs stabbed Harrell with a large kitchen and set her on fire, according to warrants. DKCPD homicide detectives arrested Griggs on May 19 and charged him with murder and arson.

Rev. Harrell was a senior pastor at Connections @ Metropolitan church. She moved to Atlanta over 30 years ago and was a member of Central United Methodist Church for over 25 years before she accepted God’s call on her life, according to the church’s website.

“At a spiritual level you’re asking God, Why? What? Why her? She was doing your work,’” said Vincente Scott, a close family friend.

Scott met Harrell in 1992. She was a Sunday school teacher at the time but worked her way up the ranks in the United Methodist Church. He said faith was everything to Harrell and that it was in her nature to want to help people.

“If you knew her, she was offering advice, offering encouragement,” he said. “The world has missed a great contributor to the civilizing process. If anything else, Marita was about improving individuals and improving society.”

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church issued the following statement:

“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.”

DKCPD confirmed that Harrell was “mentoring” Griggs at the time of her death. He’s currently being held at the DeKalb County Jail. His first court appearance is May 21.

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