updated 6/12/2007 4:36:33 PM ET 2007-06-12T20:36:33

A church deacon was charged with stabbing his preacher wife to death in their home, just a few doors down from their tiny church.

The Rev. Esther Dozier was found by the couple's son early Monday, police Chief William Walsh said. He said the 65-year-old preacher was in her bed and had multiple stab wounds.

Her husband, Henry Dozier Sr., 63, had crashed his pickup truck earlier that night and police had returned him to the home, Walsh said. A few hours later, after his wife's body was discovered, police found Henry Dozier in another vehicle outside of town.

According to the district attorney's office, Dozier told the officers he had ingested poison, so he was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where was treated, and then taken to jail.

He later pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.

Esther Dozier had moved to Great Barrington from Alabama in the 1960s and became involved with the Clinton AME Zion Church, where her future husband was a member, said David Levinson, who wrote a history of the church. The two were married there in 1965.

She had led the church with about 25 members since 2000.

Levinson said Dozier also was involved in housing and homelessness issues and helped establish the African-American Heritage Trail that extends from Pittsfield to northern Connecticut. She also organized regular lectures about W.E.B. Dubois, the black educator who was born in Great Barrington.

"Even though her congregation was small, she turned the church into a force," Levinson said. "There was no pretense with her. She was direct and honest and very funny."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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