John Douglas White, 55, was arraigned in Isabella County District Court Thursday afternoon and charged with open murder and first degree pre-meditated murder in the death of Rebekah Jane Gay, 24.
The alleged murder occurred in Gay’s mobile home, 3303 S. Coldwater Road, in Broomfield Valley Mobile Home Park, about 10 miles west of Mount Pleasant. White lived several houses away from Gay, police said.
Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said White beat Gay’s head several times with a rubber mallet and then slipped a plastic zip-tie around her neck and strangled her.
Gay’s body was found near a stand of pine trees off of Coldwater Road. White drove Gay’s car behind The Barn Door, 3029 S. Coldwater Road, after the murder, police said.
Gay was last seen at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday and reported missing Wednesday.
Mioduszewski said the sheriff’s department received a report about a missing person at noon on Wednesday. He said the murder happened Wednesday between 2 and 4 a.m.
“There was no forced entry,” Mioduszewski said. “The initial assault happened in the hallway. He did go back to try to clean up the blood.”
White was a non-intimate acquaintance of Gay’s who also spent time with her son, Mioduszewski said. White had fantasized about Gay during the past two or three weeks, he said.
Mioduszewski said Gay’s 3-year-old son was in the home at the time of the murder but was unharmed. It was unknown if the son was asleep or witnessed anything, he said.
White became a person of interest after interviews with Gay’s friends and family. He became a suspect after police discovered traces of blood in White’s home and pickup truck. Police found White in his home early Thursday morning. They brought him in for questioning around 8 a.m. Thursday.
“I do remember him saying he was a pastor,” Mioduszewski said. “He was very ashamed of himself.”
The arrest came at the end of a 27-hour investigation. Mioduszewski said detectives from the sheriff’s department and Michigan State Police worked through the entire investigation.
Blood spatter was found in both Gay’s and White’s mobile home. Mioduszewski said a bloodied piece of jewelry worn by Gay was found in the bed of White’s pickup truck. The mallet and bloody towels were found off Pickard Road near Woodruff Road. Gay’s cell phone was found in a dumpster in the mobile home park.
“(White) got her phone, turned it off and threw it in the dumpster,” Mioduszewski said.
As of Thursday afternoon, White’s son was with his father in Midland. Mioduszewski said White often took care of Gay’s son while she was at work at Goodwill, 1313 South Mission St. He also took him to meet with his father at the Mount Pleasant Meijer, 1015 West Pickard St., after murdering Gay.
“The suspect ended up putting (Gay’s son’s) Halloween costume on him before taking him to his father,” Mioduszewski said.
Mioduszewski said a motive has not yet been determined. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 8:15 a.m. Judge William Rush will hear the preceding.