GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A man who court records show admitted to beating and strangling his neighbor and then dumping her naked body in a wooded area has a criminal history of hurting women that dates back to 1981.
John White, 55, now faces two murder charges in Isabella County, where he allegedly beat 24-year-old Rebekah Gay with a rubber mallet and then strangled her with a zip tie with her son in the other room of her home.
In 1981, White was found guilty of felony assault with intent to murder.
White was 22 in March 1980 when he stabbed a 17-year-old girl 14 times in the back and chest, according to newspaper articles from the time.
White attacked the high school student, who was his neighbor, at his Battle Creek home after showing her a slot-car racing layout in his basement, the articles show. Authorities called the attack unprovoked at the time.
White served two years of his five- to 10-year sentence in that case.
In 1995, he lived in Galesburg before pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Vicky Sue Wall of Comstock Township, according to a May 9, 1995 article from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
Wall had last been seen on July 11, 1994, getting into White's pickup truck. She had been involved with the then-37-year-old White, who was married to and had children with another woman at the time.
That article said Wall's body was found in a wooded area off East H Avenue on Aug. 27, 1994, six weeks after she went missing. Her body was so decomposed when it was recovered that authorities could not determine an exact cause of death.
Assistant prosecutor Carrie Klein told the Kalamazoo Gazette at the time that White never explained the circumstances of the death, despite agreeing to plead guilty.
"This was a tragic accident and I am truly sorry," White said during the 1995 sentencing, the Gazette reported. "I love Vicky."
White served 12 years of his eight- to 15-year sentence.
In August 2009, White became pastor at the 14-member Christ Community Fellowship church in Mount Pleasant.
The church elder there told 24 Hour News 8 she believes White got his credentials to be a pastor while in prison. She also said she thinks he drove a semi-truck when he first got out of prison, but he does not have a commercial driver's license.
The church elder said they met White on a fluke. When they needed a locksmith, the brother of White's most recent victim Rebekah Gay did the job. He asked if they needed a pastor and mentioned that he knew a guy.
As for White's criminal record, his congregation says he told them he had walked away from a woman who had overdosed.
Isabella County court documents show White admitted to authorities that he attacked Rebekah Gay in her mobile home in the early morning hours of Oct. 31. Her body was found the next morning in a wooded area not far from her home after White told authorities where he left her.
White was arraigned Thursday on charges of first-degree and open murder. If convicted, he will spend the rest of his life in prison. He is expected back in court Nov. 8.
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