Police have identified a suspect in the recent early-morning murder of an elderly woman at her church in Maryland.
According to charging documents, Manzie Smith Jr., 62, was arrested on first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault and weapons charges in connection to the stabbing death of 69-year-old Evelyn Player, who was laid to rest on Dec. 1.
Investigators "have been working around the clock to solve this murder,” BaltimorePolice Commissioner Michael Harrison commissioner said. “Hopefully justice can be served, and we bring closure to the family.”
Harrison noted DNA evidence collected at the crime scene led detectives to Smith.
“Science produced evidence to make us pretty confident that Mr. Smith was the perpetrator of this crime,” Harrison said at a Dec. 2 news conference. “The evidence collected goes through a number of procedures to analyze it and to either identify or refute that somebody is a suspect, and that's why it took a while. It was more important for us to do this right.”
"There's no information right now to support that there was a relationship between the victim and the perpetrator," Harrison added.
WBAL-TV reported Smith has a long criminal history and spent decades behind bars. He was convicted of first-degree rape in 1991 and robbery in 2012. He had just gotten off parole in the robbery case this past October.
As FrontPageDetectives previously reported, on Nov. 16 around 6 a.m., Player texted her daughter, Alethea Finch, to let her know she had arrived at Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore so she could let contractors into the building.
At about 7:20 a.m., an employee discovered the retiree stabbed to death in one of the church’s bathrooms.
“How could someone hurt someone in such a sacred place?” Finch asked after the murder, noting, “My heart’s broken into a million pieces. I don’t understand why this happened.”
At the time, Baltimore mayor Brandon Scott said homicide detectives “will absolutely close this case.”
The victim was reportedly a devout churchgoer and her family had been part of the Southern Baptist Church congregation for generations.
The church’s pastor, Bishop Donte Hickman, told WJZ he was “elated” after police apprehended the suspect. “She did not deserve to be taken from us after giving a life of faithful service,” he said of Player.