Originally created 11/16/00

Woman charged in minister's death



A house cleaner from Aiken was arrested Wednesday and charged in the slaying of the Rev. Robert David Padgett, who authorities say was strangled with a phone cord in his home last weekend.

According to investigators with Richmond County Sheriff's Department, Maxine Dynell Echols, 31, of Banks Mill Road, was found checked into the Augusta Western Motel on Deans Bridge Road, not far from where the Rev. Padgett's body was discovered early Sunday.

Ms. Echols was taken into custody at 1:30 p.m. and is being held at the Richmond County jail without bond.

Maj. Ken Autry, head of criminal investigations for the department, said he could not elaborate on the killing.

"We have some more investigating to do," he said. "We're still not clear on the motive."

The Rev. Padgett, 61, was buried Tuesday afternoon in Hillcrest Memorial Park.

He was remembered as a civil-rights activist who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as a humanitarian who worked with the area's needy and elderly, and as a person widely embraced by the local black Baptist church community.

He was not pastor of a particular church, but visited several congregations and preached about reaching out to others.

After the Rev. Padgett didn't answer his phone, a female acquaintance went to his home shortly after midnight Saturday and knocked on his door, according to police accounts.

The woman looked through a window and saw him lying on the floor. She then summoned deputies, who kicked in the door.

A few items had been knocked over, but the house was otherwise in order, police said.

The Rev. Padgett lived alone.

Richmond County Deputy Coroner Grover Tuten said he had been dead at least 15 hours before being discovered. He said no defensive injuries were found on the victim, and that he appears to have died of asphyxiation after being choked with the cord.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or jedwards92@hotmail.com.