SOMERSET, Ky. — Police in Kentucky have announced that a man who was taken into custody as a person of interest in the killing of a late pastor’s wife has confessed to killing the elderly woman.
Dwight Bell, 41, who had previously been incarcerated for murdering his own father, had been suspected of stealing Ruthie New’s automobile last month when she was also found dead inside of the Denham Street Baptist Church fellowship hall. While in police custody, he also allegedly confessed to killing New.
“Bell was arrested on a warrant obtained by Somerset Police for the theft of Ruthie Carolyn New’s automobile. While Bell was detained in Dandridge, Somerset Police Detectives conducted an interview with Bell in which Bell confessed to the murder of Ms. New,” the Somerset Police Department posted on social media on Wednesday.
Detective Larry Patterson wrote in official police documents that the pastor’s wife “was killed by a laceration to the neck.”
Bell has now been charged with both robbery and murder, and is being held in the Pulaski County Detention Center without bond. He is also wanted in Indiana on a strangulation charge, and had plead guilty just last year to a charge of theft and making a terroristic threat, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
He was not a member of the church, but current pastor Jeff Griffith told local television station LEX 18 that the man had visited once.
As previously reported, family members of New, 70, contacted authorities on Aug. 24 to report the woman missing. Griffith decided to check the church as well, 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.
Following an autopsy, officials ruled her death a homicide, leaving the 250-member church in shock.
“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.”
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.