Investigators were working to learn more about Nancy Copin's background and associates in Snow Creek on Saturday, two days after the minister of a tiny, rural congregation was found beaten to death in her parsonage home.

"We are diligently investigating and following up every lead we can find," Lt. David Cundiff of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office said. "We're trying to run down her background and talk with people she's been associated with since she's been here."

Copin, 60, moved to the area about 20 months ago from Birmingham, Ala., where she was remembered fondly at the Baptist-affiliated Samford University in Birmingham.

Copin earned her master of divinity degree at Samford's Beeson Divinity School about four years ago. She also served as associate pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Bessemer, and was ordained at Grace Christian Church in Helena, Ala., in 2005.

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Norfleete Day, associate professor of divinity at Beeson, described Copin as "one of the most caring Christian people I've ever known." He said she made several mission trips to Cambodia, Africa and Mexico and was an avid photographer and artist.

Day says she enjoyed expressing her faith through her artwork.

Three visitors to Copin's home on Thursday morning found blood in the parsonage and immediately called the sheriff's department, Capt. Bill Overton said.

A back door to the home was found unlocked, he said.

An official said it was determined she died of blunt force trauma.

Congregants of the Disciples of Christ Church were told of Copin's death Thursday night, and decided to go ahead with Holy Week activities, elder Michael Doyle said.

"It may just be us all hugging each other and crying," he said. "Nancy was on fire for the Lord and she would be disappointed if we didn't hold services."

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