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An Elderly Preacher Was Found Shot Near His Car. Was A Hitchhiker to Blame for the Now Cold-Case Murder?

kentucky preacher
Source: Hazard police; Unsplash

Apr. 22 2024, Published 4:03 p.m. ET

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Marion Estep Sr. was a preacher in Kentucky who was known for picking up hitchhikers — and it might be his kindness that got him killed.

Estep was found murdered near his car on Jan. 10, 2008. Now, more than a decade later, police have yet to identify his killer.

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That fateful day, Estep was found in the Hazard, Kentucky, area and shot several times near his car along the Hal Rogers Parkway. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died.

The murder occurred in broad daylight, and police suspect Estep knew his killer.

Police still believe whoever is responsible for the slaying is still out there, and anyone with information on the case is asked to contact (606) 436-2222.

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Shortly after his death, the victim's family told the that the 76-year-old was known for picking up hitchhikers. His family warned him, but he ignored their pleas. Estep saw it as another chance to spread the Gospel, his loved ones said.

The family believed a hitchhiker may have been responsible for the preacher’s death.

When Estep was found, his front hood was propped up, according to the Herald-Leader. He was shot once in the head and three times in the chest. There were signs of a struggle in a car and Estep was shot with his own gun.

The only item that appeared to be missing was his Bible.

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“We can’t find it anywhere,” said Mary Engle, Estep’s oldest daughter, according to the Herald-Leader. “He always had it with him.”


His family described him as a loving man who was at church nearly every day. He was known for his ability to quote Bible verses and tell stories that moved the entire congregation.

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“Whoever killed him, didn’t know him,” said another daughter Evalee

Turner, the Herald-Leader reported. “If the person would have asked him for money, he would have given it to them. There wouldn’t have been a struggle.”

Estep was also the grandfather to Joe Engle. He followed in his footsteps and became a preacher. Then Joe Engle became sheriff in Perry County, Kentucky, according to WYMT.

"The first time I actually preached was at his funeral," Engle told the TV station.

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The preacher-turned-sheriff said he hopes to find justice and bring closure to his family.

"I know he is looking down on me right now, I get a little bit teary eyed thinking about it but he would just be overjoyed," Engle said, according to WYMT. "Hopefully we can get our hands on some of this evidence and get in there and dig and maybe open up a cold case back on this and I think it would be a great thing in my term a sheriff and honor my grandfather’s killer by bringing his killer to justice."


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