Raleigh, N.C. — The man arrested in the slaying of a North Carolina Central University student had been a pastor for more than 20 years and faced criminal sexual charges.
At 1:15 a.m. Saturday, Robert Lee Adams Reaves, 43, of 19 Birchcrest Court, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Latrese Matral Curtis, 21.
Curtis' body was found Wednesday morning along westbound Interstate 540. An autopsy showed she died from puncture wounds caused by a sharp object.
WRAL spoke Saturday afternoon with Reaves' cousin from Bennettsville, S.C.
“He [Reaves] was energetic. He was a go -getter. Like I said, he was just, just not a murderer,” Levon Evans said.
The arrest was also surprising to Reaves' neighbors.
"It is very unusual for policemen to even drive down our street or make a circle through the cul-de-sac. For so many policemen to be here yesterday and all through the night, last night, it is very unusual,” neighbor Scott Nash said.
Reaves has a criminal past. In Durham, Reaves pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of obtaining property by false pretenses in September 2005, according to court records. He was ordered to pay $500 in restitution and given community service and 12-months probation.
His cousin said Reaves is a bishop at a church in Durham, but WRAL was unable to confirm the name of church.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said Reaves and the victim did know one another. He said more information about their connection would be forthcoming.
"Through the investigation, we have found out they had met each other, and we are still looking into that," Harrison said.
Reaves began his career as a preacher at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church near Bennettsville, S.C., in the mid 1980s.
He left the church in 1987 after being accused of criminal sexual conduct involving a boy under age 17, said Pastor Earl Platt, the church's current pastor who succeeded Reaves.
Reaves was charged with criminal sexual conduct Sept. 3, 1987, in Marlboro County, S.C., according to court records. He was convicted of third-degree sex charges on Jan. 1, 1988. Platt said Reaves served time in jail for that conviction.
Reaves was also charged with simple assault and battery in 1982 in South Carolina.
Platt described Reaves as a "gifted preacher" who had a true talent for communicating with people. Platt said he hoped Reaves would start "doing the right thing" and move past the sexual accusations.
“That was his past. I thought, you know, he rose above that,” Evans said.
According to published reports, Reaves next surfaced in New York City, where he served as pastor at Cedar of Lebanon Baptist Church and studied at Elim International Fellowship. He resigned in January 2002 to establish Cedar International Fellowship in Brooklyn.
Platt said sexual allegations involving Reaves and a male minor also surfaced in New York.
Court records show that Reaves was charged again with first-degree criminal sexual conduct on July 13, 2002. That charge led to what court records described as a "non-conviction."
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) entered statements honoring Reaves in the congressional record in March 1997 and June 2002.
"The Reverend is a visionary who is continually developing," a March 1997 tribute by Towns reads. "As a man of faith, Reverend Reaves is giving birth to a vision whose time has come."
Reaves' first Wake County court appearance was scheduled for Monday.