A Friday night vigil brought friends and family of 24-year-old Rebekah Gay together, celebrating her life and mourning her death.
Police say 55-year-old John Douglas White, a pastor and ex-convict, murdered Gay around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning in her home, 3303 S. Coldwater Road, in Broomfield Valley Mobile Home Park, where she lived several houses away from White.
Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski told Central Michigan Life Friday Gay’s autopsy was currently taking place in Grand Rapids and it will take awhile for results to be known.
Mioduszewski said White beat Gay’s head with a rubber mallet and slipped a plastic zip-tie around her neck to strangle her.
The news comes as a shock to congregation members at the Christ Community Fellowship, 3554 S. Gilmore Road, where White was pastor for the past three years, the Associated Press reported. Before his arrest Thursday, White asked church members to begin a prayer chain for Gay, who was still missing at the time.
White was arraigned Thursday in the Isabella County District Court on charges of open murder and first-degree pre-meditated murder and ordered jail time without bond.
White served prison terms for assault with intent to murder and for manslaughter and was released in 2007, CBS News said.
White deposited her body in a stand of pine trees off Coldwater Road and parked her car behind The Barn Door, 3029 S. Coldwater Road, after the murder, police said.
“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.”
Gay was last seen at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday and a missing persons report was filed Wednesday at noon.
Police said they approached White early Thursday morning after interviews with Gay’s friends and family. He became a suspect after blood was found in Gay’s and White’s mobile homes and a bloodied piece of Gay’s jewelry was found in the bed of White’s pickup truck, Mioduszewski said.
Police said the mallet and bloody towels used were found off Pickard Road near Woodruff Road and Gay’s cell phone was found in a dumpster in the mobile home park.
White confessed to the murder, blaming it on a two-week sexual fantasy he had to kill Gay and have sex with her dead body, according to the AP. White said he stripped her body, but drank four or five beers before going to her home and did not remember carrying out a sex act. Police said White told them the murder was fueled by pornographic videos.
White was engaged to Gay’s mother and regularly watched Gay’s three-year-old son when she was at work.
Following the murder, White returned to Gay’s home to help her son get ready for Halloween and dropped him off at his father’s home, Mioduszewski said. It is unknown if the son was asleep or witnessed anything during the murder, he said.
A preliminary examination is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Thursday before Judge William Rush.