COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man who had been been living in an elderly pastor’s garage along with his girlfriend has been charged in the homicide of the Ohio minister.
Ricky Skinner, 42, has been formally charged with murder as police believe that he beat Joseph McDowell, 81, to death last month. McDowell led Southard Baptist Church in Columbus.
As previously reported, McDowell’s body was found after firefighters responded to a call about an explosion and blaze inside of a garage that had been converted into an apartment. The detached garage sits behind McDowell’s house.
Neighbor Rose Dailey told the Columbus Dispatch that Skinner pounded on her door the morning of the incident, asking her to call 911 and exclaiming “I’m on fire!”
Emergency responders soon checked on McDowell, but found him deceased in his bedroom. Skinner and his girlfriend Jamie Raines, 40, were transported to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for significant burns.
“As officers and fire personnel were checking the main residence for any other victims, they found a white male who was deceased and the probable victim of a homicide, which is not related to the fire,” a press release from the Columbus Division of Police outlines.
Prosecutors now allege that Skinner broke into McDowell’s home, stole cash, and beat McDowell to death with a baseball bat. McDowell had allowed Skinner to live in his converted garage. It is not clear as to whether McDowell was aware that Skinner was cohabitating with his girlfriend on the premises.
“He helped everybody. I don’t know why [he let him live there], unless he just felt sorry for him,” neighbor Ed Burnett told WBNS-TV.
Dailey said that she believes McDowell felt sympathy for Skinner, an ex-convict who “suffered from Hepatitis C and was telling people that he only had months to live.”
Skinner had previously been convicted of burglary and robbery in 2003 and 2006, and neighbors said that there was suspicion that Skinner had been stealing from others in the community.
He is being held on $500,000 bond.
As previously reported, the incident follows two other recent headlines surrounding violence toward pastors. As previously reported, Rudy Trujillo, the pastor of Faith Center in San Fernando, California was attacked last month by a former member and suffered a broken hip that required replacement.
Herbert Valero, 68, of Victory Outreach Church in Salinas was stabbed to death just days before as he stepped outside of his home to pray with a member.
Both Trujillo and Valero had been working to reach gang members and drug addicts.