Woman's Cause of Death Still Unclear

By Ron Colquitt

August 5, 2008

Woman who died four years ago was hidden in freezer; husband's bond hearing is scheduled for this morning

The autopsy on Arletha Hopkins, who died nearly four years ago and was hidden in a home freezer in Mobile, was expected to begin Monday, after the body had thawed for a week, according to information from police.

The cause of death had not been determined as of Monday afternoon, a police spokeswoman said.

Hopkins' husband, roving pastor Anthony Hopkins, has been charged with rape, sodomy, incest and murder in the case and is scheduled for a bond hearing this morning in Mobile County District Court.

The freezer containing the body of the 36-year-old woman was removed from the Hopkins home in the 200 block of Rylands Street on July 28 and taken to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences office in Mobile.

The Hopkins household has eight children.

A court document used to obtain a search warrant for the house alleges that Hopkins killed his wife in 2004 after she caught him sexually abusing one of the family's daughters.

Hopkins, 37, was being held without bail Monday afternoon at Mobile County Metro Jail.

Police Chief Phillip Garrett said Monday that he has been with the Mobile Police Department for 38 years and cannot recall a more "bizarre" case in that time.

Hopkins was a self-styled evangelist who never stayed in one place for very long, though he had been living in the Rylands Street home where the body was found since 2004. "He has gone on like nothing has happened, carried on his business," the police chief said.

Garrett said he would oppose any effort to release Hopkins on bond because he believes Hopkins poses a danger to the children and himself.

The main purpose of an autopsy is to help determine a cause of death. A medical examiner with the state forensics office in Mobile declined to comment on the Hopkins case Monday.

Dr. Kenneth Snell, interim chief medical examiner at state forensics headquarters in Auburn, said Monday that the freezing and thawing of a body can affect autopsy results. "It depends on the amount of decomposition before the freezing took effect," he said.

Snell said he didn't know how Arletha Hopkins' body was handled at the Mobile office, but most likely it was placed in the decomposition room during the day and kept refrigerated at 38 to 40 degrees at night.


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