A Lexington man has confessed to robbing and killing a woman three weeks ago at a Somerset church, police said Wednesday.
Dwight Mitchell Bell, 41, was charged with robbery and murder in the slaying of Ruthie Carolyn New, 70.
Somerset police Chief William Hunt discussed the case Wednesday evening at a news conference.
New was found dead Aug. 24 at Denham Street Baptist Church, where her late husband, J.S. New, had been the pastor. New helped clean the church.
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After family members reported New missing, the current pastor, Jeff Griffith, searched the church and found her body, reportedly in a storage area. Authorities have not released the cause of her death.
Somerset police cited Bell as a person of interest in the case soon after the murder, and then obtained a warrant charging him with the theft of New’s car, which was found in Indianapolis.
Hunt said that Detective Larry Patterson, the lead investigator, developed information that Bell was in Tennessee and contacted police there.
Dandridge, Tenn., police found Bell and arrested him in the theft of New’s Toyota Corolla.
Somerset officers went to Tennessee and interviewed Bell. He confessed during the interview, Hunt said.
Police brought Bell back to Somerset Wednesday. He was being held in the Pulaski County Detention Center without bond, Hunt said.
Bell also is charged with being a fugitive on an Indiana charge.
Hunt said a number of other police agencies helped in the case, including the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, the Kentucky State Police, Lexington police and other departments in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.
Somerset officers worked doggedly on the investigation, and Patterson “put his heart and soul into this case,” Hunt said.
Police did not take questions about the investigation, and several members of New’s family who attended the briefing said they did not want to comment.
Bell was charged in 1999 with killing his father, Roger Bell, 49, of Wayne County, who was shot in the head.
Dwight Bell pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter.
Bell lived most recently in Lexington, where he pleaded guilty last year to charges of third-degree terroristic threatening and attempted theft.