BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Bishop Dontè Hickman leads the 4,000-member congregation at Southern Baptist Church, and they are still reeling from the death of one of their own: 69-year-old Evelyn Player. She was stabbed to death in a bathroom on November 16th while at the church volunteering. Player's family members have been part of Southern Baptist for generations.
An arrest this week in the case did bring some comfort.
"Peace and I think some resolve to this unknown character who has been lurking about and committing this kind of violence. It does give people peace that he is off the streets, but it is still bewildering and perplexing as to why this happened," Hickman told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren.
According to charging documents WJZ obtained, DNA lead them to the suspect, 62-year-old Manzie Smith, who has a history of violent attacks on women dating back 40 years. They were able to match DNA at the crime scene to Smith's DNA already in the state's database.
Smith's record includes a 1979 rape conviction where he received a 15-year sentence, a 1992 rape and assault where he received a 30-year sentence. For the 2014 assault and robbery of an elderly woman, Smith got an 8-year prison sentence. He was later released on mandatory supervision which expired in October—just weeks before the killing.
"The judicial system really didn't do a good job of causing this person to be rehabilitated. There are so many things that we have to give consideration to because we do not want to pre-judge people who have served time through the judicial system, but we also want to provide the adequate kind of care and supervision so that these kinds of acts don't happen," the victim's pastor said.
He also told Hellgren he had never seen the suspect at his church before.
According to charging documents, Evelyn Player suffered multiple stab wounds, and there were also multiple defensive wounds on her hands: She fought back. There is no indication she knew the suspect.
Hellgren asked Hickman about forgiveness: "The human side of me says, 'Hell no. I can't forgive. The pastoral, spiritual side of me, knowing what Christ has forgiven us all of and died on the cross says, 'Yes.' There is nothing that is beyond the love and the grace of god even if that's to be found through justice."
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