A minister’s wife was beaten and killed in a home invasion that badly injured her husband and terrorized the Lake Gaston community in North Carolina.
Two masked intruders entered the home Friday morning and kidnapped Nancy Alford, 76, and forced her to withdraw money at a local ATM. The second intruder stayed behind with her husband, John Alford, a minister at Sanford Memorial Baptist Church in Brodnax, Virginia.
She was driven back to the house, where the intruders beat up her husband before setting the home ablaze with the couple tied up inside, according to Sheriff Johnny Williams.
The minister, who was honored with a special song and prayer service Sunday, was able to escape and was airlifted to Duke University Hospital for treatment.
According to WRAL, the beloved couple had lived on the Lake Gaston lot for nearly 40 years. Their nephew told the local station that he spent his childhood summers at the house.
“We're a small community, and for this to happen in this kind of town is unheard of,” business owner Pete Richardson said.
Authorities have stopped and questioned drivers in the area to gain clues about the suspects.
By all accounts, the Alfords were upstanding members of the community and there was an outpouring of grief on the church’s Facebook page.
"Pastor John Alford is a wonderful man, and so sorry for the loss of his wife and the event that led to their nightmare... May the Lord give him healing and comfort at this time," one person wrote.
Nancy was a dedicated Sunday school teacher for 17 years. John, who was in stable condition as of Sunday, suffered second-degree burns and will need a skin graft.
“They were always willing to help somebody else out versus trying to take care of themselves," Richardson said. “So, it's a very, very deep loss for this community and somebody that we will so miss.”
Neighbors and community members said they were in shock.
"You can't even have a home or property without someone coming in and destroying it or setting it on fire or killing you," neighbor Joyce Humphreys said.
The intruders also stole the family's car, a gray Mercedes, which has not been found.
Police have not yet released suspect descriptions.
Investigators were combing through the charred rubble where the house once stood and the State Bureau of Investigation and the State Highway Patrol were assisting as well.