Man faces murder charge in death of Durham priest

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Matthew John Reed, 36, is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of 71-year-old Kent Hinkson. (WTVD)

A man is behind bars facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of a 71-year-old priest from Durham.

Matthew John Reed, 36, is being held in the Orange County Jail without bond. He has a probable cause hearing August 25.

Hinkson's family held out hope for almost a week before the body of Kent Hinkson was found early Sunday morning in a heavily wooded area of Eno River State Park.

Saturday, Hinkson's wife Jeline made a plea for his safe return.

"Please, do everything you can to release him and take him to the authorities and we need him here so badly, I need him," she said during a recorded interview with Good Morning America.

Jeline had no idea that plea would be to Reed, the man now charged with the first-degree murder of her husband.

Just hours after her interview with Good Morning America, she got the call her husband would not be coming home to her, a reality that she was already struggling to prepare for.

"I am worried that my husband is, not alive," she'd said. "I'm worried something terrible has happened to him."

She would be right.

Authorities found her husband Sunday morning in a heavily wooded area of Eno River State Park in Orange County, 15 miles from their home. She last saw her husband alive at their home seven days before when he left to run errands.

"I kissed him goodbye, said 'I'll see you in a little while,'" she recalled.

That was Monday. As the days went on, the fear only increased.

When his car was found abandoned at an apartment complex five miles from their home, and when their wedding anniversary came and went: "On Wednesday it was our 48th wedding anniversary and it was the first time we celebrated our anniversary without being together," Jeline said.

Now the question turns to why.

Court documents show Reed gave police a Raleigh home address. ABC11 talked with some of his former neighbors at Pines of Ashton Apartments; they say Reed moved out about a month ago but didn't say where he was going.

Amy Barber was shocked to hear the news of his arrest.

"I just can't see it," said Barber of her former neighbor Reed. "He's just very nice. I mean, there are nice people and then there are people that are cordial and he was just very nice."

In the same church where just last Sunday Hinkson gave communion, family friends gave a news conference.

They could offer no connection between Reed and Hinkson, only kind words about a man who loved his faith and who doted on his wife.

"He considers himself a very lucky man to have married one of the most beautiful, spectacular women in the world," said family friend Kevin Anselmo.

Jeline was also a woman who just wanted her husband home.

"I just love you so much and I just want you here with me. And I'll let you eat all the shortbread cookies you want to eat."

On the Tuesday after Hinkson's body was found, Thomas Kortus, Interim Rector of All Saints Church in Durham where Hinkson served, shared new details about one of his last conversations with him. Kortus said Hinkson opened up to him the Friday night before he went missing on the following Monday.

"He was at peace but he wasn't ever pretentious or pretending to have it all together, if that makes sense," said Kortus. "He was comfortable in his skin, with his mistakes, with his- with himself. I think living like that is very hard."

Kortus said he and others who were close to Hinkson are still trying to piece together how or if he knew Reed.

"I think in a lot of ways there was some closure at finding his body but then it just sort of opened up a whole mess of questions," he said. "You know, Matthew Reed has never visited All Saints Church before. He's not part of our community. As far as we know, there's no known connection between Matthew and Kent."

"I think this could get more complicated as more details are revealed," Kortus said.

After finding out the news that investigators found Hinkson's body and Reed had been charged with his murder, Kortus said several members of their church have talked about forming a prison ministry to share their faith with those currently incarcerated.

The SBI is handling this investigation. There is still no word as to a motive or how Hinkson died.

There will be a memorial service for Hinkson Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Durham. His family says it will be to celebrate the priest's life and ministry.

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