A small-time south Alabama evangelist was denied bond on a murder charge in the 2004 death of his wife, whose body was found early this week in a freezer at the family's home.
Anthony Hopkins, 37, remains in jail Thursday after a brief Mobile County court appearance, where he made no comment in connection with the case, and his trial attorney will be appointed later.
The father of six children, Hopkins also is charged with rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and incest in a related case involving a female relative who is pregnant with his baby, authorities said. Her disclosure of that sexual abuse led police to find the body in the freezer Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley Rich said Arletha Hopkins, 36, apparently was killed in November 2004. Investigators believe she was killed when she discovered the sexual abuse, according to a court document used to obtain a search warrant.
The wife's stepmother, Mary Best of Wadley, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that she knew something was wrong when she was unable to reach Arletha Hopkins on her cell phone. She said the couple had separate cell phones and "her phone got cut off."
She finally reached Anthony Hopkins, who told her they had moved to California. "I did feel like something happened to her," she said.
The wife's aunt, Shelly Best, said she last saw the entire Hopkins family in Wadley in 2003 when they came to sing at a church. The family performed at churches as an ensemble and Hopkins preached.
Anthony Hopkins was arrested Monday as he delivered a sermon at the Inspirational Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in rural Jackson, Ala.
Pastor Beverly Jackson told reporters that Hopkins told her he was a single parent because his wife had died in childbirth.
Police discovered Arletha Hopkins' body covered in a freezer in a utility room during a police search of their home in Mobile.
Rich said the relatives were expected to take custody of the children, ages 3 to 19. They are now in state custody.
"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 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.
Anthony Hopkins is expected to appear in court again on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.