Preacher convicted of killing wife, freezing body

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama evangelist who terrorized his family while impressing audiences at revivals was convicted Friday of murdering his wife and storing her body in a freezer for years.

People who heard Anthony Hopkins' sermons in rural towns around the South sometimes called him a psychic or even a prophet. Yet a prosecutor told jurors that Anthony Hopkins terrorized his wife and young children, isolated them and used the Bible to manipulate them.

"He was the supreme commander of his own little army," said Assistant District Attorney Jill Phillips.

After deliberating for 1½ hours, the jury in Mobile also found 39-year-old Anthony Hopkins guilty of rape, sodomy, incest and sexual abuse of a child between the ages of 12 and 16.

Hopkins was arrested in 2008 while preaching at a revival on charges that he killed 36-year-old Arletha Hopkins. Authorities said they were led to the body of his wife by a teenage relative that Hopkins had abused and impregnated.

Investigators say Hopkins killed his wife in a violent fight in 2004 after she caught him having sex with the teenager. They said he then stuffed the wife's body into a freezer at the Mobile home he shared with her, the couple's six children and two of her children from a previous relationship.

Hopkins showed no reaction on Friday as deputies handcuffed him and led him from the court.

Children who grew up in his home and who had testified against him stood in front row and hugged each other and cried as the verdict was read.

"There is nothing pleasing about any of this, it is all very disturbing," Ashley Rich, the prosecuting attorney, said afterwards. "A number of children have been harmed and the chances of them fully recovering are slim."

Defense attorneys left court without answering questions.

Hopkins told jurors Friday that he came home on a December evening in 2004 and found his wife dead on the floor, with the youngest of her eight children, an month-old infant, beside her.

"I was shocked and I began to shake her, and I was like 'Letha, Letha are you alright?' I began to shake her, tilt her head back and do CPR," Hopkins testified.

Hopkins served in the U.S. Army in Kazakhstan in the late 1990s and earned a medal for his service. Hopkins was arrested in Saraland, near Mobile, in 1998 for being absent without leave from the U.S. Army in Fort Bragg, N.C., from June 15, 1995, until April 6, 1998.

He testified Friday that he decided to leave the Army after he got orders to serve in Korea and could not take his family with him.

It was then he said that he had a calling to become an evangelist and began preaching at churches and revivals around the rural South. He developed a following because many who heard him preach considered him a prophet who could see the future.

Six of the children who lived with the couple have been sent to live with in Georgia with Arletha Hopkins' stepmother Mary Best, who commended the jury.

"They saw the same thing I did because it didn't take them long to convict him," she said after the verdict.