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Man charged with murder in church killing

SOMERSET, Ky. (BP) — Dwight Mitchell Bell confessed to robbing and killing a woman three weeks ago in a Kentucky church, according to police.

Bell, 41, was charged with robbery and murder in the death of Ruthie Carolyn New, 70, on Aug. 24 in Somerset.

Bell was taken into custody on Tuesday after Somerset police detectives, with the assistance of the Major Crimes Task Force and the Dandridge Police Department in Dandridge, Tenn., located him in the Dandridge area.

Somerset police charged him with murder on Wednesday (Sept. 13).

Dandridge Police Officers arrested Bell without incident on charges stemming from the warrant for the theft of New’s automobile, which was found in Indianapolis. Police in Indianapolis had released surveillance images of Bell last week.

New was found dead in the activity center at Denham Street Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky.

She had been reported missing by family and pastor Jeff Griffith searched the church and found her, reportedly in a storage area. Authorities have not released any details about her death.

Somerset officers went to Tennessee and interviewed Bell, who confessed to the killing, according to Somerset Police Chief William Hunt.

She was the widow of the former pastor at the church. Her late husband, J.S. New, founded the church in January 1973 as a mission of Slate Branch Baptist Church. She remained an active member after her husband’s death in 2012.

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.

As the church custodian, she often cleaned the church on Thursdays and was perhaps doing so when the murder occurred, according to media reports.

Bell was charged in 1999 with killing his father, Roger Bell, 49, of Wayne County, who was shot in the head. Dwight Bell pleaded to a lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter.

    About the Author

  • Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today
    Mark Maynard writes for Kentucky Today,, where this article first appeared. Kentucky Today is a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Read All by Mark Maynard/Kentucky Today ›