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Crime News Homicide for the Holidays

Minister Murdered Single Mom On Halloween To Live Out His Necrophiliac Fantasy

Michigan detectives were horrified when they uncovered the twisted motive behind the disappearance of Rebekah Gay. 

By Becca van Sambeck

Halloween was always a fun community event in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. 

How to Watch

Catch up on Homicide for the Holidays on Peacock or the Oxygen App.

A grisly murder a decade ago in the town changed that for some residents, according to Oxygen series “Homicide for the Holidays.”

Rebekah Gay, 24, was a much-loved single working mother with a 3-year-old son, Conway. To celebrate Halloween, she had decorated her home with eight scarecrows, and she made plans with her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn, to go trick-or-treating with Conway.

But on October 31, 2012, Rebekah didn’t come to her work at a local store so a coworker went to her home to look for her. She wasn’t there but her car was in a bar parking lot near her trailer.

The landlord unlocked the door to the home. Inside, Rebekah’s purse was on a counter but she was nowhere to be found. Her mother, Sally Gay, and friends grew very concerned.

Sheriffs then executed a search of her residence and vehicle.

Rebekah Gay in Homicide for the Holidays

Police observed that an area of a carpet looked like it had recently been cleaned.

“It appeared that there was some sort of struggle,” said Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski, of the Isabella County Sheriff’s Office.

Rebekah’s home was determined to be a crime scene. The neighborhood was canvassed. Detectives talked with people close to Rebekah, including Aaron as well as Conway’s father. Both men were cleared as suspects. 

Detectives also interviewed John White, 55, a minister who was in a relationship with Sally. He lived in the same trailer park as Rebekah. It was routine for White to drop Conway off with his dad on Wednesdays. 

The morning went according to plan, he said. White told investigators that he went to Rebekah’s trailer at 6:30 a.m. to watch Conway before the drop-off. The door was unlocked, and he walked in. He claimed Rebekah was in the bathroom, and he heard her tell him to rest on the couch until Conway woke up. He fell asleep and didn’t see her leave. White then dropped the boy off with his father around 8 a.m.

Detectives observed a cut on White’s nose during the interview. He said a shelf had fallen in his trailer and showed investigators where it happened. The story seemed legitimate.

But as a routine part of their investigation, detectives looked into the minister’s background. While some witnesses said he was a good preacher, others said he was strange, according to “Homicide for the Holidays.” 

Investigators asked White to take a polygraph. He reluctantly agreed at Sally’s request, revealing why he didn’t want to take a lie-detector test. He had a criminal past that included “an attempted murder case,” according to Det. Sgt. David Patterson, Isabella County Sheriff’s Office. 

RELATED: The Facts — And Fiction — Behind The ‘Halloween’ Films

“He told me that he did two years from that but the case was thrown out,” said Patterson. “He got released.” Church elders gave him a second chance.

But the case took a dramatic turn by the evening of Halloween: A trooper found blood and a broken necklace in the back of White’s truck. 

Detectives obtained a warrant to search White’s home and the vehicle, where they found found a bag with a rubber mallet, zip ties, construction garbage bags, and women’s underwear. Around the same time, White flunked the polygraph.

“It’s obvious he’s being deceitful,” said Patterson.

Around 3 a.m. on November 1, investigators showed White pictures of his blood-stained truck and the busted necklace. White claimed he knew nothing about it

Investigators dug deeper into White’s past and learned more about the crime he was convicted of. In Battle Creek in 1980, when White was 22, he lured his neighbor, 17-year-old Theresa Etherton, into his basement. He stabbed her repeatedly.

John White in Homicide for the Holidays

Etherton survived and White served two years, before getting out on appeal. He said his lawyer should have mounted an insanity defense, according to “Homicide for the Holidays.” 

Then, in 1994, White was implicated in the disappearance of a young woman, Vicky Sue Wall. Her body eventually was found. Due to lack of evidence, White agreed to plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter. He was behind bars from 1995 to 2007.

In the early morning hours of November 1, White was ready to talk. He said he would exchange information about Rebekah for a life sentence and being segregated from other prisoners.

He told investigators that the night before Halloween he’d drunk several beers and watched pornographic websites where people commit sexual acts on dead bodies. He said necrophilia intrigued him and that he had fantasized about experiencing that with Rebekah.

“So after five beers, it sounded like he got the courage to go to her residence,” said Patterson. “She had an unlocked door. So he let himself in.” 

While Conway slept, White beat Rebekah over and over with a rubber mallet. Then he slipped a cable tie around her throat and cinched it tight. He dragged her body into the kitchen and removed her clothes.

He stuffed her in a garbage bag, dumped her down a ravine, and drove home. He moved Rebekah’s car to the bar parking lot to mislead detectives.

Rebekah’s body was ultimately recovered. It appeared that she had ligature marks around her neck. Autopsy results showed signs of abrasions that indicated a sexual assault on Rebekah “while she was still alive or shortly after death,” said Patterson. 

In March 2013, John White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 56 years in prison, cbsnews.com reported. Four months later, he killed himself in his jail cell.

To learn more about the case, or others like it, watch “Homicide for the Holidays,” which you can stream here.