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UPDATE: Couple charged in minister's murder appear in court

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The young couple arrested in connection with the beating death of a local minister appeared before a judge Tuesday morning.

Jordan Craig, 26, and Steven Kelley, 22, are both in jail on a $1 million bond on charges of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery.

Craig and Kelley both signed papers waiving their right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of the crime. Their next court date is set for December 18.

Both Kelley and Craig mouthed "I love you" to family and friends sitting on the front row of the courtroom.

The couple is represented by different attorneys. Kelley's attorney chose not to comment Tuesday.

"Ms. Jordan Craig cooperated fully with investigators," said her attorney Ben McGowan. "I think the public is entitled to a far more comprehensive view of what went down that night. I expect that view will begin to become apparent once we have the officers before the court."

Funeral services for Kenneth Johnson are at noon Tuesday at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church.


UPDATE: Members of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church gather around a group of candles at the altar.

They're remembering a man who devoted his life to his community and ending violence—The very thing that cut his life short.

“In spite of allegations, this man has impacted so many lives in this community. He was our guy that if we needed to go to the street, he was ready to go,” Senior Pastor Ternae Jordan said.

Jordan says Kenneth Johnson, 59, was one of his closest friends and a fellow minister at Mt. Canaan. Jordan spent Thursday evening leading his congregation in prayer during a rally to end violence.

Johnson's remains were found Tuesday beaten to death lying in a ditch on Blackford Street. Police arrested Jordan Craig, 26, and Steven Kelley, 22, both of Flintstone, GA, and are being held on a $1 million bond each on charges of especially aggravated robbery and first degree murder.

“We know that Kenneth's family isn't the only one that's hurting. There are two other families somewhere in this city that are devastated as well,” he added.

Halfway through the service, Johnson's wife Sandra was helped to the alter. Jordan spoke to Sandra as she wiped tears from her eyes. The couple was going to celebrate their anniversary next week.

Church members like Frances Jones remember Johnson for the good he did among the congregation and the lives he impacted along the way.

“We're not qualified, we're not able to judge one another because if we ask for forgiveness from God, he is just to forgive us,” she said.

Jordan is proud of the life his friend lived and the legacy he leaves behind.

“Kenneth is saved and we're satisfied that he is with the Lord, I know I am,” he said.

Funeral arrangements for Kenneth Johnson have not yet been set. Channel 3 will be sure to pass them along as soon as we get them.

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A couple remains jailed this morning after a minister was found beaten to death and lying in a ditch.

Jordan Craig, 26, and Steven Kelley, 22, both of Flintstone, GA, are being held on a $1 million bond each on charges of especially aggravated robbery and first degree murder. 

Police responded to a call of an abandoned vehicle in the 2200 block of Blackford Street. They found the lifeless body of 59-year-old Kenneth Johnson, a minister at Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, showing signs of trauma.

READ MORE | Minister, an Army veteran, found dead

Police found Craig after going through text messages found in Johnson's phone in his vehicle. Johnson was told to go to an alley for an exchange of goods, according to an affidavit of complaint.

Craig told police that she planned to get drugs from Johnson and that she brought her boyfriend in case the deal went bad. She claimed her boyfriend protected her.

However, when investigators spoke with Kelley, he said the drug deal went bad when Johnson attacked him with a crowbar.

Physical evidence did not match Kelley's story. Investigators only noticed a scratch on Kelley's head. He claimed he was struck across the chest and head.

Investigators on scene also were unable to find illegal drugs that the couple referenced. Instead, investigators found that Johnson's vehicle had been ransacked pointing to signs of a robbery.

Craig has prior convictions for theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, according to court records.

The couple is due in court Nov. 18 before Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck.

For more on this story, stay with Channel 3 for the latest.

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