Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski says the body of Rebekah Gay has been identified and a suspect has been arrested in connection to her death.
Michigan State Troopers say a female body was found on the corner of Coldwater and Pickard, about a half-mile from where Gay had gone missing Wednesday morning.
Authorities said Gay's body was dumped in a shallow valley along the side of the road.
The suspect, identified as John Douglas White, 55, of Mt. Pleasant, has been charged and arraigned with first-degree murder in connection to Gay's death . Mioduszewski said Gay had been struck over the head with a mallet several times before being wrapped in plastic and transported to the ditch along the road. The sheriff said Gay knew her assailant, but that they were not intimate. Gay's 3-year-old son was at the residence during the time of her slaying. Police believe the boy was asleep during the ordeal.
Police said White knew Gay and her family, and lived just a few doors down from her. He would often watch her son while she was at work. After White allegedly killed Gay, he dressed Gay's son in his Halloween costume before the boy's biological father picked him up. The boy's dad said he didn't notice any out of the ordinary when he picked his son up.
Authorities said White admitted to police that he fantasized about Gay and was very attracted to her.
The Michigan State Police crime lab was at both scenes to process evidence and document the scene with photographs.
Authorities were also seen at a nearby area that state troopers confirm is connected to the body's discovery. That scene is about a mile up the road, on the corner of South Woodruff, just north of Pickard.
Authorities said that White had not been cooperative during the investigation and that he'd lied to police. Mioduszewski said a gold chain necklace of Gay's was found in White's pickup truck.
Family and friends said they haven't seen Gay since she left her home on M-20 near Coldwater Road on Halloween morning. Her car was found behind The Barn Door Bar, which was near the mobile home park that she lived in. Gay, who worked at Goodwill in Mt. Pleasant and had recently received a promotion, didn't show up for work and that's what triggered the search for her.
The news of this story comes just as TV5 learned about another incident near Flushing where a woman was found naked in a ditch - she'd been beaten and stabbed. Read that story here.
A vigil will be held in Gay's honor Friday at 8 p.m. at Midland Bullock Creek High School located at 1420 Badour Road in Midland Township.
UPDATE #1: According to the State Department of Corrections, White has a long and violent criminal history. He was in prison from 1981 to 1983 for assault with intent to murder. In that case, White stabbed his female victim multiple times.
UPDATE #2: According to an elder at the Christ Community Fellowship Church in Mount Pleasant, White served as a pastor there for the past three years. The elder was surprised to hear the charges against White and told WNEMTV5 that there were never any problems with him.
UPDATE #3: White also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 8 to 15 years in prison in the death of Vicky Sue Wall, a Comstock Township resident in 1994. He was released in 2007.
UPDATE #4: WNEM has learned that James White will be in court Thursday, November 8.
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