Investigator Ralph Sciple, now retired, Constable Paul Payne and Sheriff Tommy Waddell search for evidence the day after a woman was shot last year in Dixon Baptist Church.
Investigator Ralph Sciple, now retired, Constable Paul Payne and Sheriff Tommy Waddell search for evidence the day after a woman was shot last year in Dixon Baptist Church.
A Philadelphia man was indicted for first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of a woman inside a church in the Dixon community on Feb. 23, 2017.

Alex Deaton, 29, was indicted by a Neshoba County grand jury for first-degree murder in the death of Brenda Pinter, 69, as she arrived to clean Dixon Baptist Church that afternoon. Her body was found inside the church.

Deaton was brought from Kansas to Rankin County last week where he is charged with first-degree murder, auto theft, and drive-by shooting. He's accused of strangling his girlfriend, stealing her car, and shooting a jogger there in February before he allegedly killed Pinter.

He later allegedly carjacked a couple in New Mexico before fleeing to Kansas and shooting a store clerk.

Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell and a deputy traveled to Kansas last week where they met with officials from both Rankin County and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

“We went there to collect some evidence pertaining to the Neshoba County case,” Waddell said.

Neshoba County District Attorney Steven Kilgore said Deaton would be brought back to Neshoba after Rankin officials are finished with him.

“We are looking forward to getting him back and dealing with this case,” Kilgore said. “We have a very strong case.”

If convicted of first degree murder, Kilgore said Deaton would face life in prison.

Deaton’s case is expected to be on the Neshoba County Circuit Court docket for the March term, he said.

In the Neshoba murder case, investigators obtained a “text message” where Deaton “made reference to killing a person in a church,” Waddell said during the investigation.

In addition, a white SUV was captured on video at the church around the same time Mrs. Pinter was shot to death, leading authorities to name Deaton as a “person of interest” early in connection with the case.

He was believed to have been driving his girlfriend’s white 2012 GMC Acadia bearing Mississippi Nurses Foundation Tag Number F396 NF on the day of the Neshoba County murder.

Video showed a white SUV arrived at the church “just a few minutes” after Mrs. Pinter got there, the Sheriff said.

“It stayed several minutes at the church before leaving on Highway 21 headed toward Forest,” Waddell said. “We know that was the only vehicle that entered the parking lot until her husband discovered her body.”

Mrs. Pinter had gone to clean the church after leaving another job, Waddell said earlier.

Earlier that day about 3:50 p.m., Waddell said Mrs. Pinter talked on her cellphone with a sister-in-law.

“She was at the church and she told the family member she had to go because somebody was coming up,” he said. “She said she didn’t know if it was someone lost or needing directions.”

Waddell said that call was the last known contact anyone had with Mrs. Pinter. She had sat with an elderly person until around 3:30 p.m. or so that day, before going to the church, he said.

Sheriff’s Investigator Ralph Sciple, now retired, said earlier that Mrs. Pinter, who had recently undergone a hip replacement, had parked her car at the front door of the church so she wouldn't have to walk very far. He said nothing appeared to be missing from the church or from Mrs. Pinter’s purse.

An autopsy showed the cause of death was a gun shot wound, Waddell said.

Deaton also faces an 11-count indictment in New Mexico, charging him with  three counts of kidnapping  (firearm enhancement), two counts of armed robbery (firearm enhancement), one count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon or, in the alternative, aggravated battery with great bodily harm (firearm enhancement), three counts aggravated assault with a deadly weapon (firearm enhancement), unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle.

The indictment charges that those crimes occurred on or about Feb. 28.