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Atlanta pastor found stabbed to death, burned by man recently released from prison she was ministering to

Marita Harrell, 57, was the pastor of the Connections at Metropolitan UMC church in Atlanta.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — An Atlanta pastor was found stabbed to death and burned inside a car, allegedly by a man recently released from prison that she was ministering to.

Dekalb County police are investigating the homicide that took place Wednesday night in Lithonia.

The victim was identified as 57-year-old Marita Harrell, who was stabbed at a residence in the 1300 block of Panola Road according to police.

Harrell is identified on a church website as the pastor of the Connections at Metropolitan UMC church in Atlanta.

She was transported to the 1600 block of Coffee Road, where her deceased body was later found in a vehicle by police.

Police said they arrested a suspect, Christopher Griggs, Thursday and currently have them in custody at the Dekalb County Jail. Records show he faces charges including malice murder and first degree arson.

According to a police report, Harrell's husband Antonio was tracking her phone location because he was worried about her meeting with the man. The husband made the unthinkable discovery of her killing when he used the phone tracking to locate her minivan, according to the report.

The report said he had "told his wife not to meet anymore people who have just been released from jail for safety reasons."

The report goes on to state a friend had also warned her about such meetings, but Harrell said she wanted "to help people who have been in jail."

According to her Connections at Metropolitan bio, Harrell has lived in Atlanta for more than 30 years and has a husband of 27 years and two daughters, ages 18 and 5.

Harrell graduated from Emory's Candler School of Theology with a Master of Divinity Degree in 2014. She has served in leadership roles at several other churches in the area, including Rivertown UMC in Fairburn and Newnan Chapel UMC.

The bio states she "describes herself as a child of God who daily seeks to grow in her walk with God."

A North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church Twitter account wrote: "It is with great sadness that I report to you that the Rev. Marita Harrell, formerly with Wellroot Family Services, and pastor of Connections at Metropolitan UMC is sitting with the angels in heaven."

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