Man Arrested in Murder of the Rev. Tryon Eichelberger

7:08 PM, Mar 19, 2010   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Authorities arrested a 39-year-old man they say beat the Rev. Tryon Eichelberger in his Isaac Street home so severely that it led to his death months later.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced Friday during a joint news conference with Columbia police that Frankie Lee McGee was arrested and charged with first degree burglary and murder. Previous Coverage: Man Killed in Home, Suspect Sketch Released

Authorities say McGee beat the 87-year-old Eichelberger in the reverend's home with an iron bar during the early morning hours of May 3, 2009. Eichelberger died on July 31, 2009 while being treated in the intensive care unit at the hospital. Related Coverage: Family Reflects on Reverend Beaten to Death on Home Invasion

Eichelberger's family worked together to celebrate what would have been the reverend's 88th birthday by collecting money to offer a reward for information on his death. Columbia Police Chief Tandy Carter thanked Eichelberger's family for their help during the investigation. They told News19 in December that they just wanted closure in the investigation. Previous Coverage: Slain Reverend's Family Raising Money for Cash Reward

"It's like having a baby. For nine months you carry that baby and finally there's delivery. It's like getting rid of that type of weight," said Eichelberger's daughter Mary Johnson Friday.

Lott said in a Friday conference that DNA evidence led them to their suspect. "Evidence from this case that our lab was able to process led investigators to the person that was charged. The community can rest easy because we have one murderer off the street," said Lott. 

McGee was transported from the Lee County jail to the Richland County jail Friday afternoon. He was being detained in Lee County on separate charges.

CrimeStoppers of the Midlands initiated a campaign to find McGee, unveiling motion billboards that prominently featured Eichelberger's story and the number to call with any information, 1-888-CRIME-SC. Related Coverage: Who Killed the Rev. Tryon Eichelberger?

Eichelberger's family offered a cash reward of $4,000 along with the $1,000 reward from CrimeStoppers for information that would lead to an arrest of the man responsible. Today they credited law enforcement with doing a great job closing the case. They also pointed to their faith.

"The silent partner was God. He was the one who gave them wisdom to bring all this together. As a praying family we have to give Him the praise," said Johnson.

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