SOMERSET, Ky. — The widow of a late Kentucky pastor was found dead on Thursday in a storage room inside of the fellowship hall of the Baptist church that her husband pastored. Authorities have concluded that her death was a homicide.
According to reports, family members of Ruthie New, 70, contacted authorities to report the woman missing. Jeff Griffith, the current pastor of Denham Street Baptist Church, decided to check the church, and soon found her body inside of the fellowship hall, a building adjacent to the church used for social functions.
New often spent time on the premises as she served as the custodian.
“Carolyn was a charter member of the church and took pride in serving her Lord as she continued her support of the church and the new pastor,” her obituary read. “She had a genuine passion for the upkeep of the church and served faithfully as the church custodian. She enjoyed spending time with her grandchildren and family, as well as walking in her neighborhood.”
Following an autopsy on Friday, officials ruled her death a homicide. It is believed that she had been killed several days prior.
“We knew that this was something that was an act of violence, that was aggressively done and that put everything into a different mode,” Pulaski County Coroner Clyde Strunk told reporters. “It is definitely a homicide and leads are coming in continually, and we’re chasing everyone of them. I feel very confident in it being solved, sooner rather than later.”
New’s funeral was held on Monday and was officiated by Griffith and several elders. The 250-member church has been in shock.
“It’s just been a real rollercoaster for many of them,” Griffith told Baptist Press. “It’s just been an up and down ordeal.”
“The funeral today, and our Sunday service, it seemed to help us make meaningful steps in the right direction,” he added. “We’re just praying, and other churches across the country are praying for us, and we’re making it.”
The coroner and police department likewise say that they are praying for those affected by the tragedy.
“Everybody’s in shock. We’re praying for the family and friends. She was well-loved and beloved by all—[a] 70-year-old lady that was just nice and sweet and loving,” Strunk stated. “When we see these kinds of hideous crimes, it makes us back up and realize that we’re living in troubled times.”
“It’s a tightly knit church, tightly knit community. You just want to pray for them pray for the family and pray for this entire community that’s been affected by this,” Somerset Police Department Public Information Officer Mike Correll also told local television station WKYT. “It’s a sad situation.”
New had been married to the late J.S. New, who died in 2012 after serving as pastor of Denham Street Baptist Church for 39 years.
“He pastored several churches, held many revivals, officiated many weddings, conducted several funerals, baptized numerous new Christians into the family of the Lord, and led many lost souls through the plan of salvation. Bro. J. S.’s ministry included visiting the sick and shut in, delivering fruit baskets, and the longest-running radio ministry on WTLO Radio, The Old Country Church,” his obituary reads.