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Church recovering from youth minister murder


PENDERGRASS — Counselors affiliated with the workplace of a murdered youth minister have been available to members of Pendergrass Baptist Church the past few weeks, said Pastor Kevin Burgess.

Burgess, a nurse who worked with Frank Harris, Jr., at Compassionate Hospice in Gainesville, acknowledges that emotions are still raw and disbelief fresh for members of this small congregation in the I-985/85 corridor of Jackson County.

“This has probably been the toughest week I’ve been through and toughest funeral I had to do,” said Burgess Dec. 5. “Sunday night Frank had been joking and smiling with all of us and then he was snatched away.

“There’s been a lot of anger, questions of ‘why.’ We’re managing minute by minute, but day by day I’m sensing God’s hand and guidance. Sunday’s going to be hard.”

Counseling through Compassionate Hospice was available the next Sunday for members at Pendergrass Baptist, Burgess noted, and Wednesday as well.

“For this to happen now (before Christmas) is particularly tough. The Harris family really needs people’s prayers. Our church is going to have our annual Christmas get-together the 14th like normal. That’s usually a celebration, but now it’ll be more of a time of leaning on each other.”

Reports say shortly after Harris left church the night of Nov. 30 he encountered William Joseph Dyer, 20, and Jennifer Dawn Lineberger, 29. The couple needed a ride to Cleveland, where they shared a room at an apartment rented out to Lineberger’s mother, Carolyn, and her husband, Leonard.

After arriving, Dyer allegedly went inside the apartment and returned to Harris, sitting in the car, and repeatedly stabbed him with a knife before pulling the minister from the driver’s seat and running him over before speeding off into the night. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Harris staggered to the driveway of an empty house some 70 yards away before collapsing. His body was found about 4 a.m. Monday by a patrolling officer.

“His wallet had been stolen and the car was gone, so for hours the police didn’t know who he was,” explained Burgess.

Cleveland police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Dyer and Lineberger Dec. 1 and charged them with murder and robbery. In addition, stated the AJC, Lineberger is charged with illegal possession of the drug Percocet and Dyer is charged with the drug’s distribution for passing it to his girlfriend.