|Preacher, Prophet, Murder Suspect: a Man Accused of Killing His Wife, Storing Her in a Freezer
By Robert McClendon
August 10, 2008
Before his arrest, Anthony Jujuan Hopkins was known as a prophet among those familiar with his work as an evangelist.
In the culture of the Holiness churches and spirit-filled congregations where he preached, the dreaming of dreams and the casting out of demons are skills expected of any good minister, and by many accounts, that's just what he was.
"A lot of people claim to be psychics," said Nicholas L. Jackson Sr., pastor of a small church in the Clarke County town of Jackson, where Hopkins has preached. "But when they speak, it doesn't always come true. When a prophet speaks, you know it's true. And he was a prophet. When he told you something was going to happen, you could pretty much count on it."
So effective was Hopkins, that his revivals attracted a devoted following, Jackson said: "He could pack a house."
But even as Hopkins was able to tell those followers much about themselves, they apparently knew little about him.
In Mobile, prosecutors have accused the 37-year-old man one of the most sensational crimes in local memory — killing his wife after she caught him having sex with one of the family's daughters, then keeping the body in a freezer at their Rylands Street house for nearly four years.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and sexual assault, and was being held Saturday in Mobile County Metro Jail on nearly $800,000 bail.
What little information that law-enforcement officers have released about Hopkins since his July 28 arrest has been vague: "connections" to several Southern states, a history of unemployment and odd jobs, a roving ministry, and a stint in the military marred by a 14-month absence without leave.
Hopkins' lawyer, Jeff Dean, did not add much when a reporter inquired, except that his client's parents had separated, the father living in California and the mother in Texas.
Public documents fill in some of the gaps, although even those conflict on occasion.
Hopkins' Georgia marriage license paperwork says he was born in Frankfurt, Germany, while Hopkins' court file says he's from Luxembourg. Dean said Hopkins' military paperwork has him being born in Hoppstaedten, Germany.
He and Arletha Hopkins wed in Stillmore, Ga., about two hours southwest of Augusta in April 1994, according to the marriage license. He was 23. She was 22.
Arletha had grown up nearby in the town of Wadley, Ga.
Alabama bound Jackson said he first met Hopkins in 1999.
Jackson had no church of his own at that point, preaching instead as an aspiring evangelist.
When he heard talk about a talented young pastor spreading God's word in an impoverished Jackson neighborhood known as The Depot, Jackson said he was intrigued.
Jackson said he was impressed when they met face to face; Hopkins was smart, charismatic and commanded a knowledge of the Bible so thorough that he could quote lengthy scripture with ease. Plus, he had an interesting story.
Jackson said Hopkins told him that he was the son of a pimp and a prostitute, and that he had overcome a difficult childhood in order to preach the Gospel.
"That kind of story is impressive to people when you're trying to become a minister," Jackson said.
Still, his new friend could be stingy with details about his past and his family, Jackson said. Though the two met regularly for prayer and Bible study, Hopkins rarely let him come inside the back of the Jackson church where he was living with his wife and their children.
"If you went over to their house, he met you outside," Jackson said.
Arletha Hopkins was quiet, he said, habitually deferring to her husband during casual conversation. The children were well-mannered, but also quiet. The eldest, Jackson said, looked just like her mother.
After a few years, Hopkins moved away from Jackson, although the two maintained intermittent contact. Then, in 2004, Hopkins stopped returning calls, and Jackson said he lost touch with him altogether.
News of a death Later, Jackson said, he heard through the grapevine that Hopkins' wife had died giving birth to their youngest son.
Jackson said he found it odd that there hadn't been any funeral announcement and that Hopkins, if he was still living in the area, hadn't reached out to any of his old friends in Clarke County after experiencing such a trauma.
Still, Jackson said, he didn't have any reason to believe otherwise.
Time passed, and eventually Hopkins resurfaced in Jackson this spring.
Not long before Hopkins' final sermon, delivered as police searched his home for his wife's body, he and Jackson preached at a revival together.
At that revival, Jackson said, Hopkins' was not his usual self. He stumbled over his words and repeatedly looked at one of his daughters while he preached,
It was same daughter he is accused of abusing since she was 11, the same daughter whom police said told them about the body in the freezer.
Sometimes, Jackson recalled, Hopkins interrupted his sermon that day to speak directly to her. "She never said anything," Jackson said. "She just sat there and looked at him."
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