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Medical examiner confirms cause of death for pastor’s missing wife, Marilane Carter

The Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday (Aug. 21) that the Arkansas State Medical Examiners Office has confirmed a body found in rural Arkansas belonged to Marilane Carter and ruled her death as a suicide.

A missing-person flyer for Marilane Carter that was posted online. Image via Facebook/Find Marilane

(RNS) — Leawood Baptist Church has confirmed that its pastor’s wife, who had been missing for more than two weeks, was found dead earlier this week in rural Arkansas.

That comes after Marilane Carter’s vehicle was found Tuesday (Aug. 18) in an empty storage container on private property in West Memphis, Arkansas, with a woman’s body inside.

The Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday (Aug. 21) that the Arkansas State Medical Examiners Office has confirmed the body belonged to Carter and ruled her death as a suicide, according to local news reports.

RELATED: Kansas pastor Adam Carter asks for help to #FindMarilane after his wife goes missing en route to Alabama

“The family asks for your thoughts and prayers right now and in the upcoming days,” reads Find Marilane, a website sharing information about Carter’s disappearance.

Carter was last seen Aug. 2 in a video at a hotel in West Plains, Missouri, and her phone last pinged near Memphis, Tennessee.

The evening before, she had left her home in the Kansas City area, where her husband, the Rev. Adam Carter, is pastor of Leawood Baptist Church.

Marilane Carter. Photo courtesy of Overland Park Police Department

Marilane Carter, 36, was on her way to visit family in Birmingham, Alabama, and had made “concerning statements to her family,” according to the Overland Park Police Department in Kansas. The Carters’ family told Fox 4 Kansas City at the time the mother of three may have planned to get mental health counseling at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, where she previously had worked as a chaplain.

“Marilane was drawn to helping others who were experiencing life crises, so she got her Master’s of Divinity and became a hospital chaplain. I remember how fulfilled she was as she ministered to those in need,” her mother, Marlene Mesler of Birmingham, wrote on the Find Marilane website.


Carter’s disappearance caught attention on social media, where many have used the hashtag #FindMarilane.

The search for Carter stretched across several states.

A relative searching the West Memphis area of Arkansas reportedly found Carter’s car Tuesday morning in the storage container, according to local news reports.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, the church identified the woman inside the car as Carter and asked for prayer for the pastor and his family.

“The all-out effort to find her is a testimony” to how loved Carter was by family and friends, her family shared on the Find Marilane website.

“These have been the longest weeks of our lives, as we tried to cling to hope that Marilane was still alive. Thank you to all who have offered words of encouragement, prayers, tips, help, and support during this very difficult time,” the website said.

If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

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