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Preacher Arrested in Church After Wife's Body Found in Freezer

A small-time evangelist was arrested during a church service Monday after police found a body in his freezer believed to be his wife, a mother of eight.

Anthony Hopkins, 37, is charged with murder and incest after being arrested at a church in Jackson, Ala., during a revival. He was in the Mobile County jail Wednesday awaiting a bond hearing and appointment of an attorney.

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Police told MyFOXGulfCoast.com that no one reported Hopkins' wife, 36-year-old Arletha Hopkins, missing. Then authorities heard Monday from a relative who reported years of sexual abuse, which sparked the investigation, according to the TV station.

The body was discovered covered in a freezer in a utility room during a police search of the home in Mobile.

Police await results of forensic tests to determine the cause of death, but Mobile Police Chief Phillip Garrett said authorities believe it is Hopkins' wife. The freezer was moved to a forensics lab.

Garrett said Hopkins was arrested at the revival in the Inspirational Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in rural Clarke County, where Hopkins has roots.

"They run in, and they had their guns out," pastor Beverly Jackson told MyFOXGulfCoast.com. "I didn't know what was going on. I though it was the alarm system had gone off.”

Jackson told reporters that Hopkins told her he was a single parent because his wife had died in childbirth.

Garrett said Hopkins, the father of six of his wife's eight children, has been charged with rape and sodomy in a separate case involving a female relative and could face more charges involving another relative.

Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. said the children who lived with Hopkins — who ranged in age from 3 to 19 — have been taken into protective custody by the Department of Human Resources.

"Obviously, this situation has been an ordeal for them," Steve Giardini of the Child Advocacy Center told MyFOXGulfCoast.com. "But they're certainly better off than they were, there's no question about that."

Garrett said the Hopkins children were home-schooled. He said Hopkins "kept to himself," and apparently moved from place to place. Neighbors called him "Rev." because he attended church so often, loading the children into a van.

Police said he preached at various churches and did not appear to be affiliated with a particular denomination.

At the church in Jackson, Hopkins was delivering a message about forgiveness that drew encouraging "amens" from the congregation.

Clarke County Sheriff's Chief Investigator Sgt. Ron Baggett said he listened through the church door before assisting in the arrest about 10 p.m. Monday. About 25 people were in the congregation at the time.

Neighbors of the preacher are shocked by the news.

“We sit here all the time and never thought something like that would happen," neighbor Dascher Parker said.

Click here for more from MyFOXGulfCoast.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.