Rural Miss. church mourns stabbing death of pastor

Published 2:26 pm Thursday, November 19, 2009

Members of a tiny church in the rural Mississippi Delta are mourning the loss of their pastor who was found stabbed to death in his own home this past weekend.

Authorities said Tuesday that no one had been arrested in the slayings of the Rev. Jimmy Stauddy and his caregiver, Martha Stoker.

Stauddy, 69, was a retired Grenada police investigator and had worked in the Greenwood office of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. He had been a minister more than four decades and in 2002 became pastor of Minter City United Methodist Church, a congregation of about 20 in Leflore County.

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Church members said Stauddy had continued to preach, even though he was in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease.

Grenada County Sheriff Alton Strider said Stauddy’s wife, Scottie, returned home from an out-of-town trip Sunday and found the bodies of her husband and Stoker.

Church member Belva Pleasants told the Greenwood Commonwealth that she had spoken to Scottie Stauddy, who had been Christmas shopping in Jackson with relatives. Pleasants said Scottie Stauddy found Jimmy Stauddy in his bed and Stoker on the floor nearby.

“What a horrible, horrible thing for her,” Pleasants said of Scottie Stauddy. “She said she would never be able to block that picture out of her mind.”

Strider said there were no signs of forced entry into the house, and it appeared nothing of value was missing.

Strider said authorities were investigating whether the slayings might have been retaliation for work Jimmy Stauddy had done in law enforcement.

Jimmy Stauddy had once operated an antique shop in Oakland, Miss., but in recent years he had run his business from a building behind his home in Holcomb. Pleasants said he frequently held Saturday auctions but he did not have one this past weekend.

Bill Burleson, a Greenwood police captain who has been a member of the Minter City church for 40 years, described Stauddy as “a super nice Christian man.”

“I thought the world of him. My wife did, too,” said Burleson, whose wife, Lynda, is the church organist.

Pleasants said the congregation was concerned when Jimmy Stauddy didn’t make it to services over the weekend.

Although his health sometimes prevented the pastor from attending, his condition had improved slightly since having neck surgery earlier this year in Nashville. He had regained use of his arms, and although he usually used a wheelchair, he was able to walk some with the use of a walker, Pleasants said.

Church members tried to contact Jimmy Stauddy at home Sunday, but no one answered the phone.

To accommodate Jimmy Stauddy’s physical challenges, the church had fixed a place on the floor near the front of the sanctuary from where he could preach and purchased a sound system to better project his weakened voice.

“When most people would have stayed in bed, he would be struggling to get up into the pulpit to preach to us,” Pleasants said. “His commitment to the Lord was just phenomenal.”

Winna Seefeld, secretary for the Greenwood district office of the United Methodist Church, said the superintendent’s office is concerned about how church members will handle the violent loss of their pastor.

“The church itself is going to be very traumatized by this,” Seefeld said.