Preacher convicted of killing wife, freezing body

MOBILE, Ala. – An Alabama evangelist who terrorized his family while impressing audiences at revivals was convicted Friday of murdering his wife and storing her body in a freezer for years.

People who heard Anthony Hopkins’ sermons in rural towns around the South sometimes called him a psychic or even a prophet. Yet, a prosecutor said to jurors that Hopkins terrorized his wife and young children, isolated them and used the Bible to manipulate them.

After deliberating for 1 hours, the jury in Mobile also found the 39-year-old Hopkins guilty of rape, sodomy, incest and sexual abuse of a child between the ages of 12 and 16.

Hopkins was arrested in 2008, while preaching at a revival, on charges that he killed 36-year-old Arletha Hopkins.

Authorities said they were led to the body of his wife by a teenage relative that Hopkins had abused and impregnated.

Investigators say Hopkins killed his wife in a violent fight in 2004 after she caught him having sex with the teenager. They said he then stuffed the wife’s body into a freezer at the Mobile home he shared with her, the couple’s six children and two of her children from a previous relationship.

Children who grew up in his home and who had testified against him stood in the front row and hugged each other and cried as the verdict was read.

Defense attorneys left court without answering questions.

Hopkins said to jurors Friday that he came home on a December evening in 2004 and found his wife dead on the floor, with the youngest of her eight children, a month-old infant, beside her.

“I was shocked and I began to shake her, and I was like, ‘Letha, Letha are you alright?’ I began to shake her, tilt her head back and do CPR,” Hopkins testified.

Hopkins served in the U.S. Army in Kazakhstan in the late 1990s and earned a medal for his service. Hopkins was arrested in Saraland, near Mobile, in 1998 for being absent without leave from the U.S. Army in Fort Bragg, N.C., from June 15, 1995, until April 6, 1998.

He testified Friday that he decided to leave the Army after he got orders to serve in Korea and could not take his family with him.

Six of the children who lived with the couple have been sent to live in Georgia with Arletha’s stepmother, Mary Best.