Murder suspect cites relationship with pastor as motive

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The man accused of murdering a Western Michigan University student said he did it because he was suspicious about her relationship with a prominent local pastor.

According to a police report obtained by 24 Hour News 8 Thursday, Donnovan Lewis told investigators that he killed 24-year-old Aniya Mack, who was his girlfriend, in June after arguing with her about her growing relationship with Rev. Strick Strickland, also the president of the Kalamazoo chapter of the NAACP.

Mack sang in the choir at Second Baptist Church, where Strickland preaches.

The report said Lewis told police he knew Strickland was letting Mack borrow his car, but didn’t immediately think they were romantically involved. Later, he said, he grew suspicious when Strickland started stopping by the apartment and picking up Mack more often. Lewis said that after learning about the relationship, he started having “some of the most violent dreams he had ever had.”

He went on to say Mack told him that Strickland had threatened her because she said she was going to tell people about their relationship. Lewis didn’t provide any details about the alleged threat.

The police report shows that Strickland eventually contacted police about the release of a white Chevrolet Malibu that was claimed as evidence in the investigation of Mack’s death. Strickland said the car belonged to his wife.

On Thursday, Strickland provided a statement to 24 Hour News 8 via text message in which he denied being in a romantic relationship with Mack.

He said he had not seen the police report, but pointed out the statements came from a murder suspect who is also using an insanity defense.

“I am trying to be sensitive to the fact that Aniya is possibly not the only life that was lost, but this young man deserves for his family to be given some time to cope as well,” he went on to say.

Mack’s mother Loretta Bailey, who recently moved back to Michigan to be present for the court proceedings, told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday that she had also not seen the police report and was not interested in what it says. She said she’s focused on justice for her daughter.

The Kalamazoo branch of the NAACP did not return requests for comment Thursday.

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