IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) - A Mount Pleasant man who admitted to beating his neighbor with a rubber mallet, strangling her with a zip tie and dumping her body in a wooded ditch has committed suicide.
John Douglas White hanged himself Wednesday morning at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, where he was incarcerated.
White killed 24-year-old Rebekah Gay in the early morning hours of Halloween Day 2012. While her 3-year-old son slept in the other room of her mobile home, he beat her with a rubber mallet. When she fell to the floor, he strangled her with a zip tie, killing her.
He stripped her naked, put her body in a trash bag, and then left her along the side of the road not far from the Mount Pleasant-area mobile home park where they both lived.
After the murder, White dressed the boy in his Halloween costume. When the boy's biological father came to the home to get his son, he didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. The 3-year-old was not hurt.
When Gay failed to show up for work that day, her coworkers called police. It wasn't long before the Isabella County Sheriff's Department arrested White.
He told authorities he had been fantasizing for about two weeks about killing Gay and having sex with her dead body, court documents show. He directed them to where he had left her naked body in a wooded ditch.
White had planned to marry Gay's mother and often babysat Gay's son. He had been working as a pastor at a small Mount Pleasant church.
In March, White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as a third-time habitual offender in Isabella County Trial Court. He was sentenced in April to between 56 and 85 years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement. He was 55 at the time, so the sentence meant he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Gay wasn't White's first victim. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Vicky Sue Wall of Comstock Township, with whom he had been having an affair. He was released from prison in 2007.
While under investigation for that death, White tried and failed to commit suicide by mixing pills and alcohol.
He was also convicted of assault with intent to murder in 1981 after stabbing then-17-year-old Theresa Etherton 15 times in the basement of his Battle Creek home. He appealed that convicted and was released in 1983.
Theresa Etherton is Theresa Morris now. She told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that her reaction to news of White's death was mixed.
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