Family leans on faith to deal with slaying of Durham priest
Posted August 10, 2014 9:38 a.m. EDT
Updated September 17, 2014 12:24 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — A man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Kent Torrey Hinkson, a missing Anglican priest from Durham whose body was found late Saturday in a state park in Orange County.
Authorities said Sunday that Matthew Reed, 36, of the 3200 block of Calumet Court in Raleigh, was being held at the Orange County jail. Reed has a first court appearance Monday. They did not say whether the suspect knew the victim.
The State Bureau of Investigation is handling the case because Hinkson's body was found at Eno River State Park, near Pleasant Green Road and U.S. Highway 70. His body has been sent to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy.
Officials close to the investigation said Reed contacted authorities from Greensboro and told authorities where to find the body.
Hinkson, 71, disappeared Monday when he left home to run errands, including making a bank deposit about a half-mile from his home in the Woodcroft neighborhood. Police found his car Wednesday in the parking lot of The Mews Apartments on Williamsburg Road, about 4.5 miles from his home.
The family said Hinkson had no history of dementia or cognitive illness and had never disappeared.
Hinkson was a volunteer minister at All Saints Church in Durham, where he led Bible studies and headed up pastoral care for those who couldn’t get to church. During his disappearance, friends, family and parishioners passed out missing-person fliers, helped in the search and held a prayer service.
Wednesday was Hinkson's 48th wedding anniversary to his wife, Jeline Hinkson.
The family has asked for privacy, but Jeline Hinkson posted this statement on a website set up to aid in the search for her husband:
“I was so fortunate to be married to the most wonderful man for 48 years – Kent Hinkson. He was an amazing spouse, father and grandfather to our family and a trusted mentor and friend to so many others. We are devastated by the loss and the nature of this heinous act. We are hurting immensely. At the same time, we know God has a perfect plan. We know Kent is in a much better place. We thank God for how he has been with us in the midst of this devastating tragedy. We would never be able to get through without being reassured of His promises, grace and mercy. We want to thank the Durham Police and the detective units for their professionalism and hard work. We want to also thank the community for rallying around us and drawing visibility to the disappearance of Kent. We want to thank the Body of Christ – thank you so much for your prayers and support from around the world. We ask that you remember us in your prayers in these difficult upcoming weeks and months ahead.”
The family said funeral arrangements will be posted on the website when they are made.
Family members were notified of the discovery of Hinkson's body and of Reed's arrest at around 2:30 a.m., said Brian Ellison, a family friend who spoke on behalf of Hinksons during a news conference Sunday at All Saints Church.
"God's plans are perfect. Even this one," he said. "I think our shared faith is really going to be the thing that sustains us through this."
Ellison, along with family friend Kevin Anselmo, said the family has received condolences from across the globe and are encouraged by the community's support.
"Their lost, the family's lost – it's profound," Anselmo said. "It hurts immensely. You can't describe it. You can't describe the pain we're all feeling, yet there's hope. Somehow in this tragedy we know God has a perfect plan. We know Kent's in a better place. And we know if it was not for that faith in Christ, (the family) would not have been able to get through this past week."
The Rev. Thomas Kortus shared the news of Hinkson's death during Sunday morning services at All Saints Church. Kortus said the timing was a “blessing” because those who knew him could comfort each other and grieve together.
“It was a tremendous relief to hear that in the presence of our church family, the community of people who love Kent” parishioner Eric Meckley said.
"There was a lot of support," added parishioner Vivi Watkins. "There were a lot of hugs."
Kortus said Hinkson was a friend and mentor.
“Just this last week, he and I sat on my porch smoking cigars and drinking bourbon and just talking, literally talking, about death and marriage and life, the church, the brokenness of this world. And Kent was a beacon of hope in the midst of all those things.”
Hinkson had three children and eight grandchildren.
“He was an extraordinary man,” Watkins said. “We wished this last chapter was different, but he’s leaving a legacy.”