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This story, originally published at 10:00 a.m. July 18, 2023, was updated at 3:50 p.m. July 18, 2023, to add information from the arrest report.

A longtime Silver Spring resident and pastor—and onetime member of the Montgomery County Council—was slain last week in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Donell Peterman, 56, was strangled and robbed July 10, according to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. A suspect who police say admitted to getting in an altercation with Peterman and killing him has been arrested.

“I’m enraged and heartbroken over what happened,” said Peterman’s close friend and fellow former councilmember Mike Subin. It’s “all been very sketchy.”

In recent years, Peterman traveled regularly between Little Rock and Silver Spring. Peterman graduated from Morehouse College in 1989, then joined the U.S. Army. Then, he founded Joshua Group Ministries in 1996 in Takoma Park and served as senior pastor.

He served on the County Council for six months in 2002. Unlike most officials, he wasn’t elected, but rather chosen by the council to fill a vacated spot.


Across his ministry and public life, Peterman raised awareness and engaged in advocacy related to HIV/AIDS, prostate cancer and teen pregnancy, as well as social justice issues and the revitalization of Silver Spring.

Former County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett was County Council president when Peterman served.

“[Peterman] already had a good reputation in the community,” when he was appointed to the council, Leggett said, adding that Peterman’s work with the ministry overlapped with some of the issues faced by the council.


Peterman hadn’t planned to serve on the County Council and was fulfilled by ministry. But he volunteered when the position opened up.

Leggett described him as “very friendly and outgoing… he tried to get to know people very well.”

Passionate about a wide array of social justice issues, from affordable housing, to welfare, to diversity, Peterman tirelessly fought to better the lives of those around him.


As a resident of Silver Spring, he advocated for the restoration of downtown Silver Spring and served on the boards of the Silver Spring International Rotary Club, Silver Spring Community Vision and Silver Spring YMCA.

“He wasn’t out there to get his name in the headlines; he was out there to serve people,” said Subin, who added that Peterman wasn’t a politician—he was a pastor.

There is no better way to describe the impact Peterman left on Montgomery County than a line from Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender,” said Subin: “Like brothers in the stormy night with a vow to defend, no retreat, no surrender.”


He said Peterman was a fighter with beliefs that no one could question.

“They were solid, they were honest, they were proper, they were decent, and he would never budge,” Subin said.

Peterman was very active in HIV/AIDS advocacy, along with spreading awareness through African American communities about prostate cancer. Subin said that after his own experience with prostate cancer, Peterman offered him support. He spread the word to African American males to get checked, and that it was nothing to be embarrassed about.


Peterman received several community advocacy awards that recognized his role in HIV/AIDS education and teen pregnancy intervention, including the Compassionate Pastoral Leadership Award in the area of HIV/AIDS education and The Morgan/Jerney Community Service Award for outstanding commitment to public service in Montgomery County. His teen pregnancy prevention initiatives also awarded him citations from county and state delegates.

The suspect in Peterman’s strangulation has been identified as Charles Pepper, 47, of Little Rock.

“Post miranda the above suspect admitted to being engaged in a confrontation causing death of the victim by strangulation,” the arrest report reads.


Police reported Peterman’s personal items were found in Pepper’s apartment, and Peterman’s pockets were turned inside out, per the report. Pepper is currently being held in the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility with bond.

Representatives from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and Pulaski County State’s Attorney did not immediately respond Monday to requests for comment.

The Eric S. George Funeral Home in Miramar, Florida, is handling arrangements.