Investigators on Tuesday found a gray 2010 Mercedes-Benz stolen Friday from victims of a home invasion, kidnapping, arson, and homicide.

The State Bureau of Investigation said the thieves robbed a pastor and his wife before setting fire to the couple’s Lake Gaston home near the Virginia state line.

Nancy Alford died in the fire. Her husband John was able to escape.

The Alfords arrived at their Littleton home Friday and found two burglars inside. Investigators said the pair forced Nancy to drive to a nearby bank and withdraw $1,000 from an ATM. The pair then tied up the couple inside the house and set it on fire before driving away in the Mercedes.


Police said John was able to escape but he was unable to save his wife. He is hospitalized with severe burns as well as injuries suffered when the thieves beat him.

Alford served as pastor of Sanford Memorial Baptist Church in Brodnax, Virginia for more than a decade. His wife taught Sunday School at the church.

“John Alford didn’t deserve this. John’s a good guy. He’s a preacher and a good preacher he was,” his friend Wallace Brown said. “This should not happen to anybody. Anybody in the world. I’m sorry that John and Nancy endured this. I hope he can survive and get out of this.”

Tears filled Brown’s eyes Tuesday morning as he made the short trip from his home in Roanoke Rapids to Lake Gaston to see the remnants of his friends’ home.

He and his wife have a years-long relationship with the Alfords. Brown spent more than 20 years as a North Carolina State Trooper based in the area.

He said there’s never been a crime like this in his six decades in the area. Brown said he wishes he could help investigators.

“I’m glad they found the car. I hope they got enough evidence to pin them to the wall,” he said.

“I wish I could do more for them and more to these people, whoever they are,” Brown said.

“I don’t think you want to know (how I want them punished). I don’t think it would be nice to even talk about what they deserve, but they deserve the maximum punishment as whatever it might be.”

He and some of the others said they are curious if the culprits drove the Alford’s car until it ran out of gas.

SBI spokesperson Brent Culbertson said late Tuesday afternoon that he could not yet confirm any details about the vehicle or its condition.