MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WOOD) - A Mount Pleasant-area pastor admitted to beating and strangling his 24-year-old neighbor on Halloween and then dumping her naked body in a nearby wooded area, court documents show.
John Douglas White, 55, admitted to hitting Rebekah Gay over the head with a rubber mallet multiple times and then strangling her with a zip tie, according to the Isabella County court documents.
Gay's co-workers at Goodwill reported her missing Wednesday morning when she did not come to work, according to the court documents. She had been last seen Wednesday morning at her Coldwater Road home about 15 miles west of Mount Pleasant. Her car was found behind a bar near her house.
Interviews and evidence led police to White, a pastor at a local church. White lives in the same mobile home park as Gay and, a friend told 24 Hour News 8, was dating Gay's mother. White and Gay's mother planned to marry.
After his arrest, White told police he had been fantasizing for about two weeks about killing Gay and having sex with her dead body, the court documents show. He said he had been watching Internet videos that showed women being murdered and men having sex with the dead bodies.
Between 2 a.m.and 4 a.m. Wednesday, he entered her mobile home through an unlocked door and attacked her as she walked down a hall toward her kitchen, according to the court documents.
"The suspect had hit her over the head several times with a rubber mallet, and while she fell to the floor he put a zip tie around her neck and strangled her," Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said at a Thursday press conference.
"At one point White heard Gay state, 'I know you,'" the court documents read in part.
White then stripped Gay naked, but told authorities he did not engage in intercourse with her body, according to the court documents.
The documents state that White then stuffed Gay's body and clothes, along with the mallet and bloody towels he had used to try to clean up the mess in her mobile home, into a large plastic trash bag he had gathered from his home. He put the bag in the back of his pickup truck, but it broke, leaving its contents strewn in the bed of his truck. He dumped the towels and rubber mallet along a nearby road.
He left Gay's body in a wooded area near the intersection of Pickard and Coldwater roads in Broomfield Township, east of Mount Pleasant.
He then moved her vehicle to a nearby parking lot in an effort to fake an abduction, the court documents show. He threw her purse, phone and car keys into a Dumpster.
Authorities found Gay's naked body in a large wooded ditch about a half-mile from her home, where White said it would be, Thursday morning.
They also found the mallet and bloody towels. Michigan State Police found blood in both Gay's and White's homes, the court documents state. Blood and a gold chain necklace belonging to Gay were found in the bed of the pickup truck.
Watch via YouTube (courtesy The Morning Sun ) -- Press conference on Rebekah Gay's murder:
Gay's 3-year-old son was at their home when his mother was killed, according to Sheriff Mioduszewski. The sheriff said it's unknown if he heard or saw anything.
After the murder, White dressed the boy in his Halloween costume, Mioduszewski said in the Thursday press conference. When the boy's biological father came to the house to get his son, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. The 3-year-old was not hurt.
Mioduszewski said a homicide of this nature is unusual in his county.
"We live in a very safe community. It's very devastating," the sheriff said. "Very traumatic. My condolences go out to the family. Just, it's a very unfortunate situation. It doesn't happen very often in Isabella County."
John White is a pastor at Christ Community Fellowship in Mount Pleasant. Church elder Donna Houghton told 24 Hour News 8 she let police search the church Wednesday evening after Gay was reported missing.
"The pastor (White) had called to put her on the prayer chain earlier," said Houghton in a phone interview.
At first, Houghton said, she couldn't believe that White had done it.
"It seems beyond the character that I would recognize," she said.
Then 24 Hour News 8 informed her that court documents showed he had confessed.
"Good heavens," said Houghton. "Well, that must be my irrefutable proof."
She then commented on White's two sides.
"It certainly is an even split, because it certainly wasn't obvious from one side," Houghton said.
White was arraigned Thursday on charges of first-degree murder and open murder, according to the Isabella County prosecutor.
A public defender was appointed to represent White, who has a criminal history in Calhoun and Kalamazoo counties dating back to 1981. He remains in the Isabella County Jail and is scheduled to be back in court Nov. 8.
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