A former minister of a small congregation in Michigan was sentenced Thursday to 56 years in prison for the murder of his fiancée's 24-year-old daughter. John D. White, 55, confessed to the Halloween killing of Rebekah Gay allegedly to fulfill a his fantasy of having sex with a dead body. He pleaded guilty to second degree murder last month.
Isabella County Chief Circuit Judge Paul Chamberlain ordered White to serve 56 to 85 years in prison. Judge Chamberlain, who said White has a history of attacking women, could see no reason why he should ever leave prison.
The slaying of Rebekah in her Broomfield Township home was White’s third offense. He had two other convictions for attacking women, including the manslaughter death of a 26-year-old in Kalamazoo and the choking and stabbing of a girl in Battle Creek in 1981.
Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski said that White did not appear remorseful of his crime.
“He kept saying he’s a bad person, he’s a pastor, he felt bad for the people in his church. … I don’t recall him bring real remorseful at all with regard to the victim or anything else,” Mioduszewski said. “He just basically said he was attracted to her, thought she was a very cute girl. It’s a crazy, tragic situation.”
Prosecutors claimed White was drinking of the day of the murder. He went to Rebekah’s mobile home, struck her over the head with a mallet, and they strangled her with a zip tie. Rebekah’s 3-year-old son was home at the time. After dumping her body in the woods, White dressed the boy in his Halloween costume and dropped him off with his father.
According to a member of his church, the Christ Community Fellowship in Deerfield Township, White was engaged to the girl’s mother.
White undressed Rebekah’s body, police said, but claimed he could not recall if he had sex with it.
White asked his congregation, comprised of about 14 people, to pray for the missing girl.
The girl’s mother, Sally Gay, appeared in court Thursday. "For 20 excruciating hours we prayed that Rebekah" would come home, Sally Gay told White. "She was not yours to take. How dare you."
Sally Gay called Rebekah the “heart and soul” of her family and said her son, now four, will suffer from the loss of his mother more than anyone.
Members of White’s congregation said they knew about the minister’s criminal past when they joined the church.