Manzie Smith Jr., an ex-convict with a lengthy rap sheet, has been arrested and charged with the murder of 69-year-old retiree Evelyn Player, who found stabbed to death in mid-November inside a bathroom at Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, Maryland, several media outlets reported.
The pastor of the church, Bishop Donte Hickman, said he was both relieved and happy to hear the news of Smith's arrest prior to her funeral on Wednesday.
"I am elated to hear on the evening of Evelyn Player's homecoming celebration that a suspect was apprehended," Hickman told WJZ in Baltimore. We have been praying for justice. She did not deserve to be taken from us after giving a life of faithful service. We know that she is at peace and prayerfully her family, our church and community can find peace through justice."
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael S. Harrison told reporters at press conference Thursday afternoon how they were able to track down the accused.
"Based on evidence that was collected on the scene and processed by our crime lab, we were able to identify Mr. Smith as the suspect in the case," Harrison said.
On the day she was murdered, Player had entered the church where her family had worshipped for four generations at around 6 a.m. WJZ reported that she had unlocked the doors, as she usually did, to allow contractors renovating the church to enter. About 50 minutes later, however, she was discovered dead inside the bathroom in her work area.
Player was a beloved member of the Southern Baptist Church congregation.
"She was a foot soldier who loved her community, love her church and served her community with passion," Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said. "As some church folks would say, Evelyn loved like Mary and served like Martha. Yet because of a heinous act of violence, East Baltimore lost this kind of soul.
"You've heard me say many, many times that Baltimore's greatest asset is our young people, but our older adults are the backbone of our city and those who shine the light in which all of us follow. And we cannot be a better Baltimore until we are all invested in protecting and keeping members as healthy and safe as possible."
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