SOMERSET, Ky. (BP) — The funeral service for a 70-year-old widow reportedly murdered in the fellowship hall of Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky., was held at 11 a.m. today (Aug. 28) at the church founded by her late husband.
Carolyn Elliott New, identified in news reports as Ruthie Carolyn New, had been discovered dead in the church fellowship hall four days earlier, 30 minutes after family members reported her missing.
Current Pastor Jeffrey Griffith, who discovered the body, officiated the funeral.
The church of about 250 worshippers is handling the tragedy “hourly,” he told Baptist Press after leaving the gravesite.
“It’s just been a real rollercoaster for many of them,” he said. “It’s just been an up and down ordeal.”
Griffith described New as a beloved member of the church her late husband, J.S. New, founded in January 1973 as a mission of Slate Branch Baptist Church. She remained active at her husband’s pastorate after his death in 2012.
“The funeral today, and our Sunday service, it seemed to help us make meaningful steps in the right direction,” Griffith told BP. “We’re just praying, and other churches across the country are praying for us, and we’re making it.”
Pulaski County Coroner Clyde Strunk said an Aug. 25th autopsy confirmed New’s death was a homicide, WTVQ-TV reported.
“We knew that this was something that was an act of violence, that was aggressively done and that put everything into a different mode,” Strunk told WTVQ. “When we see these kinds of hideous crimes, it makes us back up and realize that we’re living in troubled times.”
Strunk did not disclose the cause of death. New’s car was also missing, according to reports.
New 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,” according to her obituary. The church custodian, she often cleaned the church on Thursdays and was perhaps doing so when the murder occurred, WKYT reported.
Mike Correll, Somerset Police Department public information officer, described the congregation as “a tightly knit church” in a “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,” he told WKYT. “It’s a sad situation.”
No arrests had been made in the murder, but officers were following leads.
New was preceded in death by her first husband, Bob Padgett, and is survived by two children, a step-son, four siblings and several relatives. She was buried in Southern Oaks Cemetery in Somerset.