Church congregation say they forgive man accused of hitting, killing beloved music director

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ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. — Members of the Melfield United Church of Christ said they were relieved to learn Nathaniel Jeremiah Newton turned himself in Monday morning.

“The Melfield family has just a little relief from it. Not much, however like we said before, we don’t hate him, we pray for him,” said Thomas Mills, the associate pastor.

Burlington police said Newton crossed the center line, drove up onto the sidewalk and hit 58-year-old Reginald Jeffreys.

“Hallelujah, that’s the first thing I said was hallelujah, they got him,” church member Renee Holman said.

The Melfield UCC is planning a celebration of life Thursday, saying it’s what Jeffreys would have wanted.

“When you looked at him, even if you were down, his spirit would pick you up,” said Pastor Jerome Henry, of St. Luke Christian Church.

A talented pianist, Jeffreys served as the director of music at the church. Members say he brought hundreds of people joy through his playing.

“I looked forward to singing with him, and I looked forward to hearing him play the heavenly piano,” Henry said.

Newton was charged with involuntary manslaughter, careless and reckless driving, driving left of center, driving upon a sidewalk, driving while license revoked, possession/displaying a factious registration plate and simple possession of marijuana. He was booked under a $1 million bond.

Church members say they have forgiven Newton and will continue to pray for him.

The celebration of life is planned Thursday at the church at 7 p.m. A funeral service will be held Friday.

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