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Preacher accused of raping woman in Sissonville kills self in jail

CHARLESTON, W.Va.--A Texas pastor accused of raping a woman in Kanawha County killed himself while in custody at South Central Regional Jail.

John Lopez, acting operations director for the state Regional Jail Authority, said Matthew D. Jarrell, 41, was found in his cell around 11:30 p.m. Saturday attempting to hang himself.

Jarrell, a pastor at Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, Texas, was arrested in Sissonville Thursday morning after a 36-year-old woman went to authorities claiming he raped her. The woman told Kanawha Sheriff's deputies she'd met Jarrell at a Charleston bar early Thursday morning and that he offered her a ride home.

Instead, Jarrell drove her to a secluded area off Martins Branch Road in Sissonville where he forcibly sodomized her, authorities said. The woman was able to get away when Jarrell's truck got stuck in the mud.

Jarrell at first denied the allegations but later admitted that he had sex with the woman, authorities said. Deputies also found that Jarrell had similar charges pending in San Antonio. He was charged with second-degree sexual assault and was being held at South Central on $75,000 bond.

Lopez said Jarrell requested to be in protective custody when he arrived at the jail Thursday evening. He said Jarrell's request was common for sexual offenders and that he was being held in a secluded area away from the general population. His roommate was sleeping during the incident.

State Police Sgt. T.S. Mills said Jarrell fashioned a rope and noose out of his bed sheet and rigged it up to the top of the cell door some seven feet off the ground. It wasn't clear how long he had been there before his roommate awoke to find him.

"His roommate woke up after hearing some noises and found him up there," Mills said of the roommate. "He called for the correctional officers to come down to the cell and help."

Correctional officers called for paramedics and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Jarrell was taken to Thomas Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, Mills said.

Lopez said Jarrell was not on suicide watch at the time of the incident and had been medically screened by jail staff and showed no indication of any threat to himself or others. Mills said Jarrell's roommate also noted no odd behavior.

"There was no note or anything like that so we really have no insight into his thought process," Mills said.

The sergeant said Jarrell's family was notified early Sunday morning. According to Open Door Baptist Church's previous website Jarrell had a wife and four young children.

The website has since changed and now is only a white screen with the words:

"Thank you for visiting and we covet your prayers during this difficult time.

We will update this site as more information is available. However, during this time, we will continue to serve the Lord as we have for the past 46 years.

Hope to see you Sunday,

The Entire Church Membership"

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.



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