Entries in pastor (8)


Pennsylvania Pastor Accused of Killing Second Wife Going to Trial

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday for Pastor Arthur Schirmer, who is accused of killing his second wife and then staging a car accident to hide it.

Schirmer, 64, also faces a second trial at a later date for the death of his first wife.  He has said he is innocent of all charges.

In 2008, the pastor and his wife, Betty, were involved in what appeared at the time to be a car crash.  Schirmer told police at the time that he had been driving 55 mph and swerved to miss a deer, causing him to drive off the road, according to a police affidavit obtained by ABC News.

Schirmer also said at the time that his wife's head had come forward and struck the windshield, according to the affidavit.  Betty died a day later and her body was cremated at the request of Schirmer.

It wasn't until a grisly suicide in 2010 inside Schirmer's office that authorities decided to revisit the case of Betty's death and arrest the pastor.

The man who broke in and shot himself at the desk in Schirmer's office at the Reeders United Methodist Church, Joseph Mustante, was the husband of the pastor's secretary, Cynthia Mustante, Poconos Township Police Detective James Wagner said.

Mustante's suicide was prompted by the discovery that his wife and the pastor had apparently been having an affair, Wagner said.  He was alone at the time of his death.

Investigators looking into the suicide say that several church parishioners had concerns about the deaths of Schirmer's two wives.

"That suicide eventually exposed the affair publicly and subsequent to that, questions arose about the loss of [Schirmer's] wives and his character became questionable," Wagner said.

Relaunching the investigation into the two deaths, Wagner said he quickly suspected that "foul play existed, and the car crash was staged," allegedly, by Schirmer.  Wagner said investigators also believed there was something "suspicious" about the first wife's death, a marriage that investigators had not known about prior to the suicide.

Schirmer's first wife, Jewel, died in April 1999 from a traumatic brain injury after she purportedly fell down a flight of stairs in Lebanon, Pa., Wagner said.  Lebanon is about 100 miles southwest of Reeders, where Schrimer later moved with his second wife.

At the time of Jewel's death, Wagner said, a relative told police that he suspected Schirmer may have had a hand in his wife's death but that the investigation was "never completed."

On Dec. 11, 2012 -- more than 13 years after Jewel died -- a Lebanon County judge ruled Schirmer would be tried for her murder.

When investigators looked at Betty's death, they saw inconsistencies, Wagner said.

"There was no airbag deployment and it simply looked like a car that had driven off the road at a very low speed," Wagner said.  "It didn't match the injuries to [Betty's head]."

"I know there are people out there who probably know him and feel like there is absolutely no way he would be capable of doing this," said Wagner of Schirmer.  "But they clearly don't know him."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Creflo Dollar: Atlanta Megachurch Pastor Arrested for Battery

(ATLANTA, Ga.) -- Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar is expected to preach on Sunday, in spite of a physical fight with his daughter that led to his arrest, his attorney said.

Fayette County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at Dollar’s Atlanta home around 1 a.m. Friday after they received a domestic violence call from the pastor’s 15-year-old daughter, authorities said.

The fight over whether the daughter could attend a party turned physical, authorities said.

A witness told deputies Dollar, 50, grabbed his daughter by her throat and choked her, causing a scratch on her neck, ABC News’ Atlanta affiliate WSB reported.

Dollar faces misdemeanor charges of simple battery and cruelty to children. He posted a $5,000 bond and was released Friday morning.

Dollar and his wife, Taffi, have five children.

The pastor founded his ministry in 1986. It grew from a modest first service in front of eight people to having thousands of followers in satellite churches around the country.

Dollar is known for his flashy lifestyle and for preaching a gospel of prosperity to his congregants.

“Do you know why God wants you to prosper? He has a plan for your prosperity and it involves more than just having a big house and nice cars. God’s design for prosperity is so you can be a blessing to others,” it says on Dollar’s website.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tennessee Pastor Busted as Possible Burglar by Parishioner

Smyrna Police Department(SMYRNA, Tenn.) -- A Tennessee woman set up a surveillance camera in hopes of catching the thief that had been stealing prescription painkillers from her home, and she did.  But she was shocked at the person she caught fiddling at a door to her home: her own pastor.

Jean Harris, of Smyrna, Tenn., was prescribed painkillers for a shoulder injury.  When pills disappeared from her weekly pill planner and an entire bottle went missing, she questioned family and friends who had access to her house, according to The Tennessean, but the pills never turned up.

So she set up a surveillance camera pointed at a side entrance to her house.  She couldn’t believe when the camera captured Rickey Alan Reed, 55, pastor of the First Free Methodist Church, where Harris had been attending church for 55 years.

The video showed a nervous looking Reed attempting to enter the house.

“You see that he comes up, taps on the door, and looks around, possibly to see if anyone else was there,” said Sgt. Bobby Gibson, Smyrna Police Department Public Information Officer.  “He taps on the window lightly, but he doesn’t waste a lot of time before trying to make access to the lock.”

While the act of manipulating the lock could not be seen in the video, it appeared and sounded as though Reed tried to use a credit card to unlock the door.  But Harris had increased her security since the last time she was robbed, adding a dead-bolt lock, bars on her window and a chain on the door.

“He appeared somewhat visibly frustrated and that’s when he left,” Gibson said.

After watching the video, Harris didn’t know what to do.

“I took me a week and a half of prayer,” Harris told The Tennessean.  “But if I didn’t [turn him in], he was going to keep doing this.”

She called the police and Reed was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary.  He is currently free on bond, but police suspect he may have had other victims.

“From what we understand, he knew when people would be at the church,” Gibson said.  “That’s when he would go.”

Police believe there may be as many as five other victims, but Gibson said parishioners have been reluctant to report their pastor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pastor Says 'Church Sucks,' so Come to Church

George Doyle/Thinkstock(FORLSOM, Calif.) -- The signs around Folsom, Calif., said "Church Sucks," but the man who put them up said the message behind them is more complex than it seems.

"It's just inflammatory enough to get attention and yet we have something to say," Stu Streeter, the man who put them up, told ABC affiliate KXTV in Sacramento.

Streeter is the pastor of Disciples Church, a small storefront in a strip mall, and he said the signs and a newspaper ad campaign that carried the same message were created for people who don't go to church.

"This campaign for us is just a simple way to call out the elephant in the room and say, 'Hey, maybe you don't go to church because you'll think you'll be an outsider or you think power will be abused," Streeter said. "Well, it doesn't have to be that way."

In all he put up 200 of the signs around the city, and some he put on trailers that he drove around to get the message out.

The signs advertised the church's website, which makes the pastor's perhaps irreverent reverence a bit more clear.

"Church Sucks, sometimes. But we're not content with that," the website says. "Jesus didn't suck, and neither should His church. And you're invited to help!"

But it was a message that was met with anger by many of the city's residents.

"Most of the signs were pulled down by angry neighbors and some from city officials and others from people who just didn't understand," Streeter said.

Streeter planned to start giving sermons related to the "Church Sucks" campaign on Sunday, and said he hoped to see many new faces in his congregation. He said he'll wear jeans and sneakers, like his congregations, and hoped that people will see how his friendly congregation is learning to follow Jesus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Victim of Pastor's Alleged Christmas Eve Burglary Speaks

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(DALLAS) -- The Dallas woman whose fur coats, purses and laptop equipment were allegedly stolen by her pastor on Christmas Eve said she is devastated but her faith unshaken.

"I was in disbelief," Serita Agnew said. "Being a person of faith, I've come to believe that we are presented with challenges in our life and I believe that all of those challenges are tailor-designed for bring us closer to God."

Sandy McGriff, pastor of the Church of the Living God, is accused of climbing through Agnew's window on Christmas Eve. Agnew and McGriff were long-time friends and, Agnew said, McGriff called her shortly before $10,000 worth of Agnew's clothing and personal items were stolen.

"She had contacted me approximately half an hour before I got a phone call from the Dallas Police Department," Agnew said. "She absolutely knew that I wasn't going to be home. She asked me if I was with my family."

A neighbor spotted the pastor breaking a window and then allegedly taking the loot out to her car. He called police.

"This white bucket, she grab it, she step in here, and she went inside the house," neighbor David Nanez said.

Nanez told the Dallas Morning News that McGriff originally waved at him, before taking the loot.

McGriff, 52, has a very different story.

The pastor did not immediately respond to messages left by, but she told ABC News' Dallas affiliate WFAA that she was checking on Agnew's house when she caught two men breaking in.

"I'm not a burglar," she said. "My biggest mistake was going through the window."

McGriff said she was in the neighborhood to pick up a peach cobbler when something told her to go by Agnew's house. She said she spotted what looked like two burglars nearby. So she broke into the home to protect the woman's belongings in case the men came back, she said.

"I went to her bedroom, I got the laptop, on the way out the coats were right there and I just grabbed everything at once," she told the Dallas Morning News.

Asked why she didn't just call the police rather than climb through the window, McGriff told WFAA, "My mistake, I should have."

McGriff, surrounded by nine of her own fur coats, defended herself to the Dallas Morning News, saying that she doesn't "stand in need of anything."

Adding that she had a carload of groceries when she was arrested, McGriff told the paper, "I don't know of a burglar that's going to go shopping for groceries and then go commit a burglary."

"I thought I was helping," McGriff said.

Dallas police said McGriff was not only caught with Agnew's possessions but gave a different name at the time of her arrest.

McGriff gave cops the name "Kathy Robinson," one of a dozen aliases she has been known to use, according to Dallas Police Public Information Officer Kevin Janse. McGriff has an extensive criminal record that includes theft and a prostitution conviction from the 1970s, according to public records. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pastor Accused of Robbing Parishioner's Home of Luxury Goods

Pastor Sandy McGriff. Photo Courtesy - ABC News/WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- A Dallas pastor who is accused of climbing through a window to steal fur coats and purses from her parishioner's home on Christmas Eve claims she was just trying to protect the property from burglars.

Sandy McGriff, 52, was apprehended by Dallas police in the afternoon on Christmas Eve when she was spotted stuffing items belonging to Serita Agnew, a parishioner at the The Church of the Living God where McGriff is the pastor.

McGriff told ABC’s Dallas affiliate WFAA that she was checking on Agnew's house when she caught two men breaking in. Asked why she didn't just call the police rather than climbing through the window, McGriff told WFAA, "My mistake, I should have."

But police say that McGriff was not only caught with $12,000 worth of Agnew's possessions, but also gave a different name at the time of her arrest, which she then tried to evade. According to public records, McGriff has an extensive criminal record that includes theft and a prostitution conviction from the 1970s,

"She was caught by patrol officers breaking into a residence and a neighbor had called and said that there was a suspicious vehicle in Agnew's driveway," said Dallas Police Public Information Officer Kevin Janse. "When officers pulled up [McGriff] was walking out the back door with property in her hands."

"McGriff said the homeowner, who was a friend of hers, allowed her to go inside to get the property, but when officers contacted the homeowner she said she had not permitted anyone to enter her home," he said.

McGriff is charged with burglary and resisting arrest and transport, according to Janse -- charges that could put her in prison for as many as 20 years, if convicted.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pastors Defy IRS on 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday'

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) -- Nearly 100 pastors across the country took part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, which took place on Sept. 26.  The event was an in-your-face challenge to what the government says can and cannot be said in church.  The pastors, along with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, planned Sunday's event as a reaction to a law stating that churches are not allowed to support politicians from the pulpit, according to the ADF.  The growing trend is a challenge to the IRS from the churches, and may jeopardize their all-important tax-exempt status. But some pastors and church leaders said they are willing to defy the law to defend their right to freedom of speech.  Pastor Dan Fisher from Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Okla., who took part in Sunday's challenge pointed out in his sermon that separation of church and state is not in the constitution, but the government uses tax exemption as a means to enforce that notion."  Federal tax law, established in 1954, prohibits churches and tax exempt entities from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  Robert Marvin, an IRS spokesman, told ABC News, "We are aware of the recent press reports, and will monitor the situation and take action as appropriate."  ADF spokesman Erik Stanley said, "The whole goal is to foster a lawsuit where we could challenge the constitutionality of the law."  Despite the growing number of participating churches, there are some clergy that believe the participating churches have plenty to lose.  Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State commented, "Tax exemption is not a right; it's a privilege that comes with certain restrictions."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Florida Pastor Who Vowed to Burn Korans Billed for Security

(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- The controversial Florida pastor who threatened to burn Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is expected to be billed at least $200,000 by the city of Gainesville for costs associated with the stunt. Pastor Terry Jones, who got international attention with his on-again, off-again plan to burn 200 copies of Islam's holiest book, said the costs would essentially bankrupt his 50-member church. Jones vowed to fight the security bill in court and said he plans to move his church to Tampa because of what he called a lack of support in Gainesville. Security bills from the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office alone are estimated at $180,000, according to a police spokeswoman. And that figure will rise when costs are added from the Gainesville fire and public works departments, as well as other agencies that responded to an event that drew international attention to the city of 125,000.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio. Image Courtesy: ABC News.

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