SOMERSET, Ky. — A man who had previously served time behind bars for the murder of his father has now been sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to killing the widow of a late Kentucky pastor in August.
“I took the life of Ruthie Carolyn New by cutting her throat. And I took her purse and her car. I left and took off,” Dwight Bell, 41, admitted in court, according to video recorded by local television station WKYT.
He said that he had been depressed and was struggling with anxiety as he was homeless and his vehicle had been stolen. Bell stated that he committed the crime in a “psychotic outburst.”
As previously reported, on Aug. 23, Bell found New, 70, at Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset and asked her for a bag of potato chips as he was hungry.
Obliging his request, New obtained a bag of chips from the church fellowship hall—a building adjacent to the church used for social functions—and handed it to Bell. In return, he stabbed her in the neck, and then took her purse and drove off in her car.
Family members of New soon contacted authorities to report the woman missing. Jeff Griffith, the pastor of Denham Street Baptist Church, discovered New’s body after checking the church premises as she had served there as the custodian.
Following an autopsy, officials ruled New’s 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 outlines.
Bell was arrested on Sept. 12 in Dandridge, Tennessee as authorities were able to track his use of his EBT card. He abandoned New’s car in Indianapolis, Indiana before traveling to Tennessee.
“You took from all of us. You stole the innocence from this community. You stole the comfort that Ruthie New brought to her family, her friends,” Pulaski Circuit Court Judge David Tapp told Bell on Nov. 9 in sentencing him to life in prison without parole.
According to WKYT, prosecutors originally intended to seek the death penalty, but asked for life in prison without parole after Bell pleaded guilty last month.
Bell previously had been sentenced to 15 years behind bars for killing his father in 1999, but was released in 2006 on parole. Bell went back to prison in 2008 after violating his parole, and was released in 2012 with a year of supervision.