MOBILE, Ala.-While Anthony Hopkins was leading a revival in a small church on the outskirts of Jackson, Ala., on Monday (July 28) night, the body of a woman, presumed to be his wife, was stuffed in a freezer at his house in Mobile, waiting to be discovered by police.
Acting on a tip given by Hopkins' eldest daughter, police said they knew where to look and what they were likely to find when they searched the house.
Clarke County Sheriff's deputies found Hopkins at the church in Jackson a short time later, still preaching and ministering to people in the crowd, according to the pastor of the congregation hosting the revival.
It could be the last sermon he preaches as a free man. Hopkins now sits in Mobile County Metro Jail, charged with murdering his wife, 36-year-old Arletha Hopkins. He could face life in prison if convicted.
The body had yet to be positively identified Tuesday night, but authorities said they were confident that it was Hopkins' wife.
Mobile Police Chief Phillip Garrett said it could be a few days before the body is positively identified, a delay caused principally by the condition of the corpse, which he said looked like it had been in the freezer for "quite a while."
As of Tuesday morning, when Garrett held a news conference to announce Hopkins' arrest, it was not even known how Arletha Hopkins had been killed or what condition her body was in.
Officers removed the small chest-style freezer from Hopkins' house in its entirety, transporting it to the Mobile office of the Department of Forensic Sciences.
Exactly how long she had been in the freezer remains unclear, Garrett said, but nobody has heard from Arletha Hopkins in more than three years.
She had never been reported missing.
She might never have been discovered if Hopkins' 19-year-old daughter, the oldest of his eight children, hadn't come forward and talked to police attached to the Child Advocacy Center.
Detectives found out about the body during the interview, Garrett said. They also found out that Hopkins had been sexually abusing the eldest child, Garrett said.
In addition to the murder charge, Hopkins faces charges of rape and sodomy.
Details about Hopkins' past remain sketchy. Police described him as an evangelist, an itinerant preacher who toured various local churches holding revivals. He hadn't been in the Mobile area for long, according to Garrett. Hopkins kept a low profile.
Neighbors said they didn't know him well, only as "Rev." His children played in the yard often, they said, but they weren't allowed to play with other kids on the street. None of them recalled seeing Hopkins with his wife.
Beverly Jackson, pastor of Inspiration Tabernacle Church, the site of Monday night's revival service, said several of her congregants came to her and asked if Hopkins could hold a revival at their church.
"Everybody liked him, said he was a kind man," Jackson said, "And they liked the way he ministered."
Jackson said she didn't know Hopkins well, having met him only once, many years ago. When he reintroduced himself, he said his wife died giving birth to their youngest child. Jackson said she thought that was odd. She hadn't mentioned his wife at all.
Still, she said, he seemed nice enough, and he was highly recommended, so she agreed to host the revival. It was supposed to last all week. It lasted only one night.
With seven of his children in the front row Monday night-the eighth was meeting with Mobile police-Hopkins launched into his sermon, much of which centered on the topic of forgiveness, Jackson said.
"I felt in my spirit that he knew what was going to happen to him. Even if he didn't know it was going to happen here," Jackson said, reflecting on Hopkins' message.
Hopkins told the congregation that his eldest daughter had left the house.
"He said he told her she had to do what she had to do," Jackson said. Looking at his seven children, "He asked them to forgive him for his sins, past, present and future."
(Robert McClendon writes for The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.)