Brutal attack claims life of beloved Christ Church Memphis facilities director

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 10:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A robbery in broad daylight near the University of Memphis over the weekend claimed the life of 74-year-old Stephen Pearl.

Police are now on the hunt for the people responsible.

Pearl had only lived on Watson Street in the UofM area for just over a year. He was the director of facilities at Christ Church Memphis, located in East Memphis.

He is remembered by his family and neighbors like Ames Saunders as an easy-going and selfless man.

“It was just very surreal,” said Saunders. “Somebody you see on a daily basis and have conversations with, the next thing you know, they’re out cold on the ground.”

Surveillance video from Saturday morning just before 6 shows the incident. At least two suspects ambushed Pearl outside of his home on Watson Street, fatally wounding him.

Surveillance video shows the suspects pass Pearl driving down the street. They turn around and then hop out of the car.

Police say they tried to rob Pearl.

Pearl’s family says he was hit in the head with a gun, and a single gunshot went off during the struggle, missing Pearl, but catching the attention of neighbors.

The suspects quickly drive off in a silver SUV.

Police showed up minutes later.

“This neighborhood is a great neighborhood filled with great people,” said Saunders. “Bad people come in here and they case the place out and they look for targets, easy targets. At six in the morning on a Saturday. There’s not too many people out and if you’re the only one out and that’s what they’re looking for, there’s too much of that going on.”

Pearl died at the hospital Monday morning from his head injury.

His fellow parishioners at Christ Church Memphis, where he was the director of facilities for 27 years, are in mourning.

Senior Pastor Paul Lawler told Action News 5 that Pearl was “selfless... always going the extra mile and an extraordinary human being.”

Pearl’s family shared pictures with us and described him as an adventurer who was loved by everyone and would give the shirt off his back to anyone.

He leaves behind a wife, three children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

A description of the suspects has not been released, but if you recognize that silver SUV or have any information on this investigation, reach out to Memphis police or Crimestoppers at 901-528-CASH.

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