A New Jersey pastor and a Florida software engineer were convicted on Friday of scheming to help an illegal bitcoin exchange avoid having banks and regulators look into its activities.
The bitcoin exchange, Coin.mx, was linked to an investigation of a data breach at JPMorgan Chase & Co, revealed in 2014, that exposed more than 83 million accounts.
Pastor Trevon Gross, 47, and programer Yuri Lebedev, 39, were convicted of conspiracy and bribery charges by a jury in Manhattan federal court after a week of deliberations, according to a spokesman for federal prosecutors. Lebedev was also convicted of wire fraud and bank fraud.
Prosecutors charged that Lebedev helped arrange bribes to Gross, including $150,000 in donations to his church. In exchange, they say, Gross helped the operator of Coin.mx, Anthony Murgio, take over a small credit union Gross ran from his church.
Murgio used the credit union to evade scrutiny of banks wary of processing payments involving the virtual currency, prosecutors say. Lebedev was accused of working for Coin.mx through a front called “Collectables Club.”
Mark Stafford, founder and pastor of New Birth Power Plex Ministries in North St. Louis, Missouri, pleaded guilty to federal charges, admitting that he defrauded thirty-one people of $1 million. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:
An investment adviser and former St. Louis pastor pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday and admitted defrauding 31 victims of $1.08 million.
Mark Q. Stafford, 52, of O’Fallon, Mo., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to mail fraud and filing a false tax return.
Stafford admitted that from at least March 2007 to July 2016 he misrepresented investments to clients of the Stafford Financial Firm. Stafford claimed to have opened accounts when he either didn’t deposit the money at all or deposited it in his own account, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Finneran said in court.
Stafford had falsely promised returns of up to 20 percent, as well as bonuses upon investment, Finneran said. Stafford created false financial statements to dupe investors into believing his claims, and even used a false name in correspondence claiming to come from those firms, Finneran said.
He also used money from some clients to pay others, the prosecutor said.
Stafford failed to file tax returns for 2011 and 2013 and understated his 2011 income by $150,000, causing tax losses to the government of almost $100,000, Finneran said.
Stafford was the founder and pastor of New Birth Power Plex Ministries in the Baden area of north St. Louis, prosecutors said.
The Better Business Bureau of St. Louis issued a warning about Stafford and The Stafford Financial Firm last week, citing a Florissant railroad retiree and his daughter who said they’d lost their life savings.
The BBB said that Stafford steered investors to internet-based investment funds that were later targeted by regulators and law enforcement.
A Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting another priest in a church rectory has been ordered to trial in Northern Michigan.
A judge found enough evidence against the Rev. Sylvestre Obwaka, pastor at St. Ignatius Church in Rogers City.
Obwaka is charged with first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct against another priest within the Diocese of Gaylord, who testified Tuesday in 89th District Court in Rogers City. Police say the alleged crimes occurred on Feb. 1 while the man was sleeping.
Obwaka, a native of Kenya, has been a priest since 2010. He became pastor at St. Ignatius in July 2013. He is in the Presque Isle County Jail without bond, which was denied during a preliminary hearing Monday.
“I am heartbroken over the events that have unfolded in recent days,” Bishop Steven Raica, leader of the Diocese of Gaylord, which includes St. Ignatius, previously said in a statement. “Our faith calls us to ensure the dignity of each human person is upheld in every circumstance. We must respond with compassion when anyone is harmed. We must also remember than in our system of justice, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
“These are difficult days … I ask for your prayers for all those affected by this situation.”
Father Sylvestre Obwaka has been charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct using force causing personal injury and third degree criminal sexual conduct using force. If convicted, Obwaka faces up to life in prison. The incident allegedly happened Feb. 1 while a 28-year-old man was staying at Obwaka’s house in Rogers City.
According to the Michigan State Police, the 28-year-old man alleges that Obwaka sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping.
On Tuesday during a preliminary hearing, the alleged victim testified and said he knew Father Obwaka.
He says the sexual assault happened following a night that also involved alcohol, and that he woke up to Father Obwaka inappropriately touching him.
“He used his hand to force my shoulder back down on the bed and he started saying things like, ‘do you love me? Say that you love me,'” the victim said in court.
The man says he tried to roll over.
At some point in the conversation, he says he said ‘no’ to the priest, but it wasn’t clear in court Tuesday what exactly the man was saying no to.
The defense says that Father Obwaka is innocent. Their case involves proving that the two engaged in consensual sex but that the alleged victim later felt guilty about it and reported the situation to police.
“You spent 15 days shedding your guilt and piling it and piling it on my client didn’t you,” Attorney Dan White asked the alleged victim.
“No,” the man replied.
The courtroom was filled with many of Father Obwaka’s supporters.
Jonathan and Grace Foster, parents of child who died
Rowland Foster is the pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Believing that God alone heals the sick, Foster teaches congregants to pray and seek God’s divine intervention in their medical maladies. This belief has led to several deaths, including the pastor’s two-year-old granddaughter. NBC 10 reports:
A pastor in a fundamentalist Christian sect that rejects doctors and drugs has been charged in the death of a child — his own granddaughter — from medical neglect. The novel prosecution is raising hopes among some advocates that it might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
Faith Tabernacle Congregation has long told adherents to place their trust in God alone for healing. As a result, dozens of children, mostly in Pennsylvania, have died of preventable and treatable illnesses. Church members reject modern medicine as a bedrock tenet of their faith, even as some have faced manslaughter charges in child deaths dating back 35 years.
Until now, though, no leader in the sect has ever faced charges.
“It could be a new tool to save the lives of these children,” said Rita Swan, one of the nation’s top experts on faith-based medical neglect. She leads the group Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty, which works to eliminate religious exemptions in state laws requiring parents to provide appropriate medical care.
With a routine course of antibiotics, 2-year-old Ella Foster would have almost certainly beaten the pneumonia that took her life in November. But her parents refused medical care, and she succumbed shortly after they asked the Rev. Rowland Foster to anoint her.
Foster, 72, pastor of a Faith Tabernacle Congregation church district in eastern Pennsylvania, was charged with a felony this month under a state law requiring clergy members, teachers and other “mandated reporters” to turn the names of suspected child abusers over to authorities for investigation. The law makes no exception for clergy who happen to be related to the abused child, as Foster was to Ella.
“He was well aware of the fact that this child was in need of medical treatment and he never reported it, nor do I believe that he ever had the intention to report it,” Berks County District Attorney John Adams, whose office is prosecuting Foster, said in an interview.
Nationally, some two dozen religious sects oppose all or most forms of medical care, according to Swan’s group, CHILD. The group has documented more than 300 deaths but says the number is almost certainly far higher because most are not investigated.
In Pennsylvania, more than 25 Faith Tabernacle children have died over the years.
The church operates three schools in Pennsylvania — in Philadelphia, Altoona and Mechanicsburg — that together enroll several hundred students. Teachers at the schools are required by law to report suspected abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine system for investigation, but it’s unclear whether ChildLine has ever fielded a report from the schools.
One hindrance for prosecutors seeking accountability from Faith Tabernacle pastors and teachers is a lack of clarity in Pennsylvania’s child protective services law, which was revamped after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State.
Withholding medical care due to religious belief isn’t considered child abuse under the law, which makes a charge of failure to report in that situation legally problematic, said Adams’ chief deputy, Jonathan Kurland. The DA’s office was able to pursue a charge against Foster because the religious exemption does not apply if medical neglect causes a child’s death, Kurland said.
“If our Legislature is interested in protecting children, that needs to be changed,” Adams said. “Because, to me, it is outrageous that a church teaches that medical care is not to be sought for children.”
The leader of a Pennsylvania church that rejects modern medicine won’t stand trial in his granddaughter’s pneumonia death, because a judge on Wednesday dismissed a novel case that sought to hold the pastor responsible for failing to report suspected abuse.
A district judge found insufficient evidence to support the felony charge against the Rev. Rowland Foster in the November death of 2-year-old Ella Foster.
Foster serves as pastor of Faith Tabernacle Congregation, part of a fundamentalist Christian sect that instructs members to eschew treatment by physicians and the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Prosecutors had argued he should have reported the girl’s condition to authorities because state law requires ministers to report suspected abuse.
The church’s stance against modern medicine has resulted in the deaths of dozens of children from preventable or treatable illnesses, most in Pennsylvania, according to an advocacy group that tracks faith-based medical neglect. Their members hoped the pastor’s prosecution might spur change in a church that has resisted it.
“I think there’s just a lack of evidence all the way around,” defense lawyer Chris Ferro said after the two-hour hearing. “This is a grieving grandfather, not a criminal.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Kurland said the Berks County district attorney’s office may re-file the charges.
“The Fosters failed to provide adequate medical care for Ella Foster when it would have been apparent to a reasonable person that she needed that medical care,” Kurland argued to District Judge Andrea Book. “And she died as a result.”
Ella Foster likely suffered from severely labored breathing and a temperature of about 104 on the day she died, police said in charging documents.
The forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on the girl, Dr. Neil Hoffman, called her condition “quite easily or eminently treatable” and said she almost certainly would have survived had she been given antibiotics. He said she would have had severely labored breathing and a bad cough for at least a day before she died.
“The treatment could have been started within an hour or so of death and still had a high likelihood of being effective and saving the child,” Hoffman testified.
According to the Daily Local News, Jacob Malone, one time pastor at Calvary Fellowship in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, plans to “enter a guilty plea to criminal charges brought in the case of a teenager he allegedly raped and impregnated. The Local News article states:
The former pastor at a Uwchlan megachurch intends to enter a guilty plea to criminal charges brought in the case of a teenager he allegedly raped and impregnated, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Assistant District Attorney Emily Provencher of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit told Common Pleas President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody in court that Jacob Matthew “Jake” Malone had made it clear through his attorney that he would plead guilty and be sentenced.
Malone, 34, of Exton, is charged with rape, sexual assault, institutional sexual assault, corruption of minors, and endangering the welfare of children. He has been held on bail in Chester County Prison since his arrest in January 2016 after returning to the United States from Ecuador.
According to police, the victim reported that she had met Malone at a church in Mesa, Arizona, when she was approximately 12 years old. Malone was a pastor at the church that the victim attended. Several years later, in June of 2014, Malone contacted the then 17-year-old victim and invited her to stay with him and his family in Minnesota, where he had become a pastor at a local church.
While in Minnesota, police said, the victim alleged that Malone began trying to have inappropriate contact with her. In July 2014, Malone moved his family to Chester County, where he was starting a new position as a pastor at Calvary Fellowship, a non-denominational church off Route 100. Malone again invited the victim to live with him and his family, and he even registered the victim in a local high school.
The victim, according to police, reported that Malone began sexually assaulting her in the fall of 2014 while she was living at his residence in the unit block of Atherton Drive in Exton and attending Calvary. She was 18 at the time.
The victim reported that Malone provided alcohol to her on two occasions, and that during one of those incidents, the victim alleged that she became highly intoxicated and was molested by Malone.
Amazingly, Malone views his future criminal prosecution and incarceration as an “opportunity” to serve God. Please listen to the following video of Malone’s plea for prayer and understanding in light of the fact that this loving father and man of God got a female church member drunk and had sex with her.
Based on conflicting information, Calvary Fellowship did indeed report Malone to the police, but they may have investigated his victim’s allegations first before reporting him. Once again, let me say, it is NOT the responsibility of churches or pastors to investigate anything. They have one duty and one duty alone — REPORT THE ALLEGATIONS! (Please read How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?)
This screenshot from the church’s Twitter feed leads me to conclude that they investigated FIRST before calling law enforcement. As I told one complaining church member who was upset because my posts make the church look bad, it matters not if they waited two hours, two days, or two weeks. Church leaders, upon hearing the allegations made against Jacob Malone, should have IMMEDIATELY contacted the police; immediately as in 9-1-1-like speed. That Malone was able to flee the country before a warrant being issued for his arrest, leads me to believe that there was a delay in his crimes being reported to the police.
You can find more information about this case here.
The Omega Fire Ministry Worldwide has barred members from making further comments or statements on the alleged sexual relationship involving its overseer, Johnson Suleman.
In a statement issued by the Directorate of Media, the church said commentaries on the matter had overstayed their relevance and the members should no longer allow themselves be distracted by it.
“It has become imperative that we advise all Omega Children and Christians Worldwide to put an end to the ongoing media war that we have engaged in,” the church said in the statement seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
“Every wise person would know that this is not a battle of humans but one between the Kingdom of God and that of darkness.
“Therefore, nobody is permitted further to issue a statement or comment on the matter. All Facebook Live Videos on the issue should also stop forthwith. It is advised that we spend our time concentrating on more relevant issues that bothers on the Kingdom.
“We are well aware were all these are coming from and we will deal with it spiritually.”
The statement came just as a second lady, who identified herself as Queen Esther, came forward on Sunday to speak about an alleged sexual relationship with Mr. Suleman (popularly known as Apostle Suleman).
For the most of last week, Mr. Suleman and a Canada-based singer, Stephanie Otobo, traded accusations over allegations of sexual affair, forceful abortion of pregnancy, and breach of marriage promise.
On Sunday, Mr. Suleman’s spokesperson, Phrank Shaibu, declined further comments on the matter.
But in several videos posted online by Celebration TV, the church’s television arm, Mr. Suleman told his congregation that those behind the allegations would be destroyed within 24 hours.
One of the videos was uploaded on You Tube on Saturday.
“God just told me something. And in 24 hours, marine will be disgraced publicly. Marine…I’m not just prophesying on you, I’m prophesying on myself. In 24 hours, the truth will be exposed,” Mr. Suleman told his church members amidst cheers.
“In 24 hours, the marine kingdom will be disappointed. Kingdom of the water and their representatives, that made themselves available tool will be disgraced. And they shall know that it’s the ‘I am that I am’ that sent me.
“We don’t fight with our mouth; we fight with our knees. We can’t do certain things and still carry the anointing that we carry, no we don’t do that nonsense.
“If I’m true or not true, real or not real, 24 hours. I’m tough mehn, I’m tough. You don’t see me preaching? Do I look shaky? Do I look worried? Get a better agent.
“If the devil wants people to start doubting you, he attacks your reputation. We know this.
Johnson Suleman, the controversial Nigerian pastor at the center of an adultery scandal gave a $76,000 brand-new Mercedes-Benz 450 GL to Nollywood star Daniella Okeke in 2016, an official Lagos State website shows.
Ms. Okeke was previously named by Stephanie Otobo, Apostle Suleman’s estranged lover, as being one of the other women in his life.
For her part, the actress in 2016 proudly displayed the Mercedes-Benz SUV GL 450 on her Instagram page in front of a brand-new house where she parked it.
After her name was revealed by Ms. Otobo at a press conference covered extensively by Saharareporters, some Nigerians invaded Ms. Okeke’s Instagram questioning the source of her wealth given that she has not featured in any prominent movies in recent years.
The more inquisitive among them took advantage of a new website for vehicle registration in Lagos State which unveils the ownership of any vehicles by its number due to a bug on the webpage, and discovered that one of Ms. Okeke’s most prized possessions, the posh Mercedes-Benz car, is registered to “Apostle Suleman Johnson.”
This discovery is the second window into the pastor’s private life following the one opened by Ms. Otobo, but he has vigorously denied the amorous relationship she claims to have had with him.
Last week, Ms. Otobo was arrested and detained by Apostle Suleman, who procured some federal police officers to rough up the woman. She was behind bars for a few nights.
Ms. Otobo had insisted that Apostle Suleman impregnated her following sex romps in Italy, New York and Nigeria. The pastor denied the allegations and threatened to sue SaharaReporters for reporting the story.
In a rebuttal on Friday, the law office denied that Mr. Keyamo, its Head of Chambers, was actively involved in the matter, as he has been in Abuja. It described the pastor’s allegations of a conspiracy against him as pathetic, ludicrous and a nonsensical smokescreen.
Among others, the chambers revealed that the pastor paid millions into Ms. Otobo’s account and that it has pictures of him exposing his private parts, evidence of which it said would emerge in court. It also stated that other victims of the pastor have started to come forward to tell their stories, armed with proof.
Authorities have arrested a 47-year-old pastor after searching his Pine City home and a Cottage Grove church during a child pornography investigation.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says William Leonard Helker was arrested Wednesday at his home on the 15000 block of Copper Canyon Road in Pine City.
The arrest came after BCA agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed search warrants on October 26, at Helker’s home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove, where Helker is a pastor.
Helker was arrested without incident and was booked into the Pine County Jail on suspicion of possessing pornography involving minors, the BCA said.
Members of the church say they found out about the arrest via email Wednesday night.
They say Helker worked with kids conducting first communion and confirmation classes, but worked with adults as well.
“Is this pretty startling to hear this? Oh yes, oh yes. I’m really shocked, really shocked. He’s an up front guy, has always been since he started preaching there, and I really liked him, really like him. I see him at social events too, he comes to social events we have through the church,” says church member James Corbin.
All Saints Lutheran Church released a statement saying, “We are aware of the arrest of William Helker and he was placed on administrative leave yesterday. We are concerned and ask prayers for all affected and will cooperate fully with law enforcement. We are committed to providing safe spaces for all children and youth at All Saints and in the community.”
Today, Helker pleaded guilty to the distribution of child pornography, including photographs of church children. KSTP Channel 5 reports:
A former Cottage Grove pastor pleaded guilty in federal court to distribution of child pornography Thursday.
Forty-seven-year-old William Leonard Helker of Pine City was arrested in October at his home. The arrest came after Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed a search warrant at his home and All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.
The agency was tipped off by Facebook and Instagram that a user was suspected of possessing child porn.
Investigators said they found Helker communicated with a man in Finland, planning to trade images of preteen and teenage girls, according to the criminal complaint.
The photo involved two pre-pubescent girls as young as 5 and a pubescent man engaging in sexual acts.
According to court documents, Helker admitted in his plea he had conversations about his sexual interest in children, had more than 900 child porn images and 300 child porn videos in his possession, “including images of prepubescent minors under the age of 12 and depictions of sadistic and masochistic abuse.”
Helker admitted to investigators he took the photos of four minors who attended church events and edited their photos on to adult porn images. He said the photos he created were “in the hundreds.”
A former youth pastor from Cottage Grove is sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for distribution of child pornography.
William Helker, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of child pornography in March. A U.S. District Court judge sentenced Helker to 150 months in prison last week, along with 15 years of supervised release.
A youth pastor out of Cottage Grove will serve a federal prison sentence after distributing child pornography. William Leonard Helker, 47, pleaded guilty on March 3, to one count of distribution of child pornography. On July 27, United States District Judge Patrick J. Schiltz sentenced Helker to 150 months in federal prison and 15 years of supervised release.
“Helker is a dangerous child predator who disguised himself as a youth pastor. Instead of providing guidance to young people, he used his position as a trusted leader to prey upon them,” said Assistant United States Attorney Katharine Buzicky in a statement.
“This child sexual exploitation case originated in Finland with the arrest there of another child predator,” said J. Alex Khu, special agent in charge of HSI Saint Paul.
According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, on October 22, 2016, Homeland Security Investigations and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension received a cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that a Minnesota man exchanged child pornography with and individual in Finland.
The cybertip was listed as “Priority 1” because NCMEC assessed that children were currently in danger. Through a joint investigation, BCA and HSI agents were able to identify the Minnesota man as William Helker, a youth pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove.
Paul Hanniford, pastor of Pentecostal City Mission Church in Kingston, Jamaica, received a 20 year prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old church girl. The St. Lucia Times reports:
Pastor Reverend Paul Hanniford of the Pentecostal City Mission Church was convicted by a seven-member jury, on January 24 of having sexual intercourse with a minor.
According to Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the complainant, who is now 15 years old, testified in court that on March 12, 2015, she and her five-year-old brother went to the church for choir practice and after the rehearsal, they asked Pastor Hanniford for a drive out in his van.
The pastor took the children to his house in Kingston where he sexually assaulted the girl.
According to the evidence presented to the court, after the incident, the pastor gave them some cornflakes to eat and later warned the complainant not to tell anyone as it was their “secret”.
In his defense at the trial, the pastor denied having sexual intercourse with the complainant and said that he had given the children a drive out but not on the day in question.
David Boyd, pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Center (link no longer active) in Wheelwright, Kentucky, was arrested and charged with “distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.” LEX18.com reports:
The former pastor of Wheelwright Baptist Church has been arrested and charged with distribution of matter portraying sex performance by a minor.
David Boyd was arrested Friday morning at 9:08 a.m.
Boyd is still listed as the Director of Wheelwright Baptist Church, but we are told that he recently stepped away as pastor. Neighbors say that he stepped down around the time they saw police raiding his home and taking computers.
According to the Wheelwright Baptist Center website: (link no longer active)
David and Stephanie Boyd are the new directors of the former Kentucky Baptist Convention-owned ministry center in the Floyd County community of Wheelwright. A native of Wheelwright, David Boyd said his “spiritual mentor” was longtime center director and NAMB missionary, Charles Wilson. The Appalachian headquarters of World Servants, a ministry with its roots in Youth for Christ, will be headquartered at the ministry center. Stephanie Boyd directs World Servants Appalachian initiative
Wheelwright Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Last week, Benjamin Nelson, pastor of Peoria Baptist Church (link no longer active) in Hillsboro, Texas was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. The Star-Telegram reports:
A man who leads a small Baptist church and is attending seminary in Waco was arrested Monday and faces child sexual assault charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 28, was arrested at his home and booked into the Hill County Jail. He was being held Sunday on two charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct, according to Whitney police.
Whitney police told Fox4News a mother found Nelson in a car with her underage daughter in a Whitney shopping center late Sunday. Police said the deadly conduct charge stems from Nelson driving recklessly near the teen’s mother as he left the scene.
According to Nelson’s Facebook page, he is married, is pastor of Peoria Baptist Church and is attending George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University.
A local pastor who was arrested by the Whitney Police Department Monday, February 27, on charges of sexual assault of a child is facing two new charges.
Benjamin William Nelson, 27, of Waco, who was pastor of Peoria Baptist Church at the time of his arrest, was initially facing two charges of sexual assault of a child and one charge of deadly conduct.
On Thursday, March 2, Whitney Police filed two new charges on Nelson.
Whitney Police Chief Chris Bentley said that charges of indecency with a child and online solicitation of a minor were added.
Justice of the Peace Shane Brassell set bonds totaling $755,000 on Nelson on the initial charges.
Bonds totaling $50,000 were added on the two new charges.
Bentley said that additional charges are pending, and Nelson’s electronic devices have been sent to a Waco facility for investigation.
The chief added that police are concerned Nelson may have had contact with other children online.
As of today, Nelson is still listed as the pastor of Peoria Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation. According to Nelson’s about page: (link no longer active)
Rev. Ben Nelson was born and raised in deep east Texas, behind the pine curtain, in Center, Texas. He was dedicated, baptized, licensed, married, and ordained by the First Baptist Church of Center, where he met his wife Casey. Ben earned undergraduate degrees at the University of Texas at Austin, and Casey earned undergraduate degrees at Baylor University.
From 2011 to 2016 Ben served as a Campus Pastor with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Texas A&M University. He’s preached revivals, coordinated evangelism campaigns, led overseas mission trips, planted new Bible studies, and equipped generations of college students to follow Jesus faithfully for the rest of their lives.
In 2016 Ben and Casey felt the Lord calling Ben to begin in the pastorate and begin coursework on his Masters of Divinity degree at Baylor’s Truett Seminary. He came to us in view of a call in August of 2016, and he’s been preaching the Word to our congregation ever since.
Ben serves as a leader among equals, and works alongside the deacons and the congregation to see Christ’s Kingdom come, and Christ’s will done in our church and our community.
Serving life without parole in the Monroe County murder of his second wife and 20 to 40 years in the Lebanon County murder of his first wife, a former Jackson Township pastor continues to challenge the validity of the jury’s conviction in the Monroe case.
Monroe County President Judge Margherita Patti Worthington will issue a ruling at a future date on a petition filed by Arthur Schirmer, the 68-year-old former pastor at Reeders United Methodist Church, and heard in court Monday. Schirmer, whose ultimate goal is to have the Monroe County conviction thrown out so he can win a new trial, states in his petition that the jury was prejudiced by prosecutorial information and statements his attorney at the time ineffectively challenged.
Schirmer was married to first wife Jewel Schirmer, 50, for 31 years until her 1999 death in their home in Lebanon County, where he was pastor at Bethany United Methodist Church at the time.
Arthur Schirmer claimed he came home from jogging to find Jewel dead, at the bottom of their basement steps, with her head lying in a pool of blood and a vacuum cord wrapped around one of her feet. Since it appeared to authorities at the time that she had gotten her foot tangled in the vacuum cord, tripped, fallen and hit her head, her death was ruled accidental.
By late 2001, two years after Jewel Schirmer’s death, Arthur Schirmer was a pastor at the Reeders church and married to the former Betty Jean Shertzer.
On July 16, 2008, Betty Jean died at Lehigh Valley Hospital from a head injury received in a crash the day before in Tannersville.
Arthur Schirmer claimed he was driving her to what’s now Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, after she awoke complaining of jaw pain that morning, when a deer ran out in front of them on Route 715. He said Betty Jean at the time had unbuckled her seat belt to shift position in the front passenger seat.
Schirmer said he hit a guard rail when swerving to avoid the deer, causing the unbuckled Betty Jean to be thrown forward and hit her head against the windshield. Though emergency personnel initially thought her head injury looked too severe to have been caused by such an apparently low-impact crash (according to prosecution witness trial testimony), her death was ruled an accident as Jewel Schirmer’s had been.
In October 2008, three months after Betty Jean’s death, church member Joseph Musante committed suicide by gunshot in Arthur Schirmer’s church office. A subsequent letter from Musante’s sister, Rosemarie Cobb, prompted police to further investigate Betty Jean’s death and learn Schirmer was previously married to a woman who likewise had died from a head injury.
Police learned also that Musante had found out about an affair between his wife, Cynthia Moyer, and Schirmer. What the prosecution calls an “affair” was an “emotional relationship” that developed between Schirmer and Moyer, who had been unhappy in her marriage, according to defense witness trial testimony.
Using luminol, a chemical which glows in the dark when coming into contact with traces of blood on surfaces, police found blood drops in Schirmer’s garage.
This led police to believe Schirmer hit Betty Jean in the head in the couple’s garage, placed her into their vehicle’s front passenger seat and then staged the crash out on Route 715. Schirmer said the blood came from a woodpile that fell on and cut Betty Jean in the garage.
Schirmer was charged with first-degree murder, convicted by a trial jury and sentenced in 2013 to life without parole.
The Monroe County case prompted Lebanon County authorities to reopen and further investigate Jewel Schirmer’s death, after which Arthur Schirmer was charged with murder in the Lebanon case. He pleaded no contest to third-degree murder, which meant he wasn’t admitting guilt but had decided not to fight the case, and was sentenced in 2014 to 20 to 40 years in prison.
Schirmer’s recently filed petition, heard in court Monday, challenges the Monroe County conviction, stating the jury was prejudiced by prosecutorial information and statements Brandon Reish, his attorney at the time, was ineffective in challenging.
A Rhode Island pastor who also is chairman of the Republican Party in Providence has been accused of molesting a boy over six years.
Roy D. Bolden Jr. was arraigned Wednesday on child molestation and sexual assault charges. Providence Police Sgt. Philip Hart says the 33-year-old pastor, an apostle of the Legions of Christ Ministries, will likely face more charges after the case moves to the attorney general’s office.
Messages were left seeking comment from Bolden’s Providence church.
City Police Maj. David Lapatin says a 21-year-old man told police Friday that he met Bolden at the church and that Bolden began sexually molesting him when he was 12 years old.
Lapatin says police are distributing a photo of Bolden and meeting with church members to determine if there are more alleged victims.