Tag Archive: Matthew Phelps

Black Collar Crime: So Much Crime, So Little Time Issue

black collar crime

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

matthew and lauren phelps

Matthew Phelps Pleads Guilty to Murdering His Wife

I previously wrote about Matthew Phelps in posts titled Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor-in-Training Matthew Phelps Accused of Murdering His Wife and Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Preacher Matthew Phelps Stabs His Wife Repeatedly, Blames Cough Medicine.

Last week, Phelps pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the September 2017 death of his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps. Baptist News reports:

Defense attorney Joe Cheshire said his client suffered from untreated depression, anxiety and low self-esteem his entire life. Born to a 17-year-old unwed mother, he was raised by “deeply conservative Christian” grandparents who were farmers and unable to give him the attention he needed.

In high school he was introduced to Goth music, Satanism and eventually kicked out when he got caught abusing cold medicine. He transferred to a Christian school, where he turned around to become one of the best students and “a wonderful preacher.”

“As crazy as this may sound, he was a real Christian,” Cheshire said.

Phelps continued to preach and do well in college and “met what he thought was the love of his life.”

“Now there is some dispute as to how that marriage broke up or why, but we do know that she went on a mission trip alone after three years of their marriage and came back and told him that she fell in love with another man on her mission trip, and shortly thereafter left Matt and married this man,” the lawyer said.

After moving to North Carolina, Cheshire said, Phelps worked at various jobs where he met people “who took him to a bad place” that caused him to squander the family’s savings into video gaming. He was obsessed with American Psycho, a 2000 movie starring Christian Bale about an investment banker with a double life as a psychopathic killer, and reportedly told others he wondered what it would feel like to kill someone.

When his double life was discovered and his second wife was about to leave him, Cheshire said, Phelps “snapped, and what happened happened.”

At the end of the hearing, Phelps apologized for what he called “a senseless, mindless act.”

“I feel like a monster, one of the wretched, a part of the darkness we don’t speak of,” he said. “That darkness consumed me until I was blind to the path I had taken and deaf to my own cries for help. That darkness caused me to do the unimaginable, to take a life that was not mine to take.”

“No length of time will ease my inner sorrow or relieve me of the memory of such a godless act as my hands — which I thought incapable of doing — have committed, and I will have to live with the rest of my life with these hands as a constant reminder,” Phelps said.

“I hope my life will be an example of the consequences of those who think that drinking, drugs and carelessness will only affect themselves and no one else,” he said. “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatosoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.”

Satan, booze, drugs, untreated depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and whatever the hell “carelessness” is, are blamed for Phelps’ murderous behavior.

brian batke

Another Cloverdale Church Leader Accused of Sex Crimes

In October 2017, I wrote a post about the alleged sexual assault allegations levied against Samuel Emerson, pastor of Cloverdale Church in Surrey, British Columbia, and his wife Madelaine. The Emersons have since pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Last week, Brian Batke, a former church elder, was accused of sexual assaulting a minor. News Vancouver reports:

… allegations against Batke date all the way back to 2005. The elder ended his association with the church that same year, according to police.

Surrey RCMP said the allegations against Batke, which were not reported to them until 2017, involve a victim who was underage at the time.

CTV News does not identify victims of sexual assault, and the case is subject to a publication ban that otherwise prevents identifying information from appearing in the media.

Cloverdale Christian Fellowship Church did not return calls for comment from CTV News on Thursday, and 72-year-old Batke was not interested in speaking about the case outside court.

“No comment,” Batke said.

Apart from Batke’s association with the church, authorities revealed he has been a driver for the Coast Mountain Bus Company for about 13 years.

“We are releasing details on his community associations and employment because our investigators feel there may be other victims who have yet to come forward,” Cpl. Elenore Sturko said. “They’re looking to talk to these people, if they’re willing.”

TransLink, which runs Coast Mountain Bus Company, told CTV News that Batke has been placed on administrative leave and won’t be returning to work pending the outcome of the case.

mitchell fields

Evangelical Pastor Mitchell Fields Accused of Rape

Mitchell Richards, pastor of True Grace Fellowship Community Church in Montgomery, Alabama, stands accused of raping a teenager. The Montgomery Advertiser reports:

A Montgomery pastor was charged with rape this month after a grand jury indicted him in connection to an investigation that began in 2017, according to police.

Mitchell Ray Fields, pastor of True Grace Fellowship Community Church, was arrested and released on a $75,000 bond Tuesday, according to court records.

Montgomery police Capt. Regina Duckett said Thursday morning that a sexual assault investigation began against Fields on Jan. 15, 2017. A grand jury returned an indictment against Mitchell on the charge late last month.

The victim, whom Fields is related to, was a teenager at the time of the alleged assault, Duckett said.

In 2014, AL.com featured a story about Fields’ “miraculous” conversion and his desire to reach gang-bangers, drug addicts, and prostitutes with the transformative gospel of Christ. Fields told the reporter, “I tell them if God can deliver me then he can deliver you.”

meally freeman

Evangelical Pastor Meally Freeman Convicted of Sexually Assaulting Woman During “Deliverance” Session

Monday, Meally Freeman, pastor of Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was convicted of two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Earlier this year, WCCO reported:

According to the complaint, a 28-year-old woman reported she was sexually assaulted by her pastor, Freeman, at the Grace Mountaineer Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn Center. The victim told police that she knew Freeman for several years and considered him her spiritual father.

She said she was seeking spiritual guidance on September 20, 2017 and Freeman told her she needed a one-on-one session before bible study.

The complaint says that the practice of the church is to anoint parishioners with oil. At the session, Freeman allegedly gave the victim oil to drink and they began to pray. The victim said she then “fell out” or became unconscious as part of the religious ritual. When she woke up, she had oil on her chest and her clothing was wet. Freeman allegedly told the victim that he anointed all places, but that he didn’t see all places.

According to the complaint, Freeman told the victim she needed a second session later that evening after bible study. They were alone again. The victim again “fell out” or became unconscious. When she woke up, she found her pants and underwear – that were ripped — were around her ankles. Her shirt and bra were also pulled up over her chest.

Freeman allegedly was spraying the victim with a water bottle filled with oil and then proceeded to sexually assault the victim. After the session was over, Freeman told the victim to pick her daughter up from the babysitter because he did not want people to know how late she was at the church.

After leaving the church, the victim spoke with a friend who advised her she had not received “deliverance” but was sexually assaulted.

The victim confronted Freeman while secretly recording him and he did not deny touching the victim’s genitals. In the recording, Freeman admitted to anointing the victim’s chest and said “we insert things into people”, according to the complaint.

Freeman allegedly also said that his wife knows he sees women naked and that some things happen during the “deliverance” event and that “you don’t ask what happens, you don’t go into details and that deliverance can be very tempting.”

The victim said both Freeman and his wife tried to convince her not to report the incident to police.

jonathan jenkins

Baptist Youth Pastor Jonathan Jenkins Accused of Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl

Jonathan Jenkins, youth pastor at Starlight Baptist Church in Santa Ana, California stands accused of violently sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old girl in the church’s restroom. KTLA-5 reports:

He [Jenkins] first targeted the victim, who was 12 years old at the time, in January, prosecutors said. He allegely touched the girl’s buttocks while she was at church.

“Sometime in March 2018, the victim was attending service when she went to what she believed to be an empty restroom,” Santa Ana police officials said in a statement. “Jenkins was inside the restroom waiting for the victim. The victim attempted to escape, but Jenkins held her against her will. Jenkins threatened the victim with physical violence before (choking) and sexually assaulting the victim.”

Jenkins then attempted to commit lewd acts on the girl in April, and committed another molestation in July, district attorney’s officials said.

The victim did not report what had happened and continued attending the church, police said.

“On August 5, 2018, Jenkins contacted the victim at church and mocked her about the sexual assault,” the police statement said. “Jenkins told the victim if she reported this to the police, he would say she allowed the sexual assault to occur.”

The girl ultimately came forward, officials said. Santa Ana police launched an investigation and arrested Jenkins Tuesday.

He has prior felony conviction for robbery in Los Angeles County in 1983 and burglary in Orange County in 1986, prosecutors added.

joshua clemons

Evangelical Youth Pastor Joshua Clemons Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison for Having Sex with Church Teens

Joshua Clemons, youth pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Parker, Colorado was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for having sexual relations with at least three female church teenagers.

9-News reports:

Joshua Mark Clemons, 35, was sentenced last week to four years in the Colorado Department of Corrections, followed by 10 years of sex offender intensive supervised probation in the Parker case. Clemons’ plea agreement calls for three years in a related Denver case.

Clemons lived in Denver when he was employed by the Crossroads Church on Twenty Mile Road in Parker between 2008 and 2015.

During that time, he engaged in sex abuse with at least three of his students and inappropriate behavior with others, a 39-page arrest affidavit says.

One girl, who was 17 at the time, told Parker Police that Clemons used his position as youth pastor to manipulate her and get close to her, the DA’s office said. The mother of another girl told police Clemons is “a master manipulator not only of students, but adults, as well.”

Clemons pleaded guilty July 23 in the Parker case to one count of sexual exploitation of a child, a Class 4 felony and one count of attempted sex assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a Class 5 felony. Other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Clemons will be sentenced in the Denver case next month. His 4-year sentence in the Parker case will run consecutively with the three-year sentence he faces in Denver.

I previously wrote about Clemons here and here.

If God is so Powerful, Why Can’t He Stop Christians From Committing Heinous Crimes?

Evangelicals believe that their God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. He is the sovereign of the universe, and nothing happens apart from his purpose, decree, and plan. God sets up kingdoms and takes them down; thus Donald Trump is the president of the United States because God wanted him to be. It’s God, not humans, who ultimately elects people to office. He is the divine ballot box stuffer. This same God is the giver and taker of life. No one dies before the time God has appointed for his or her death. Wherever man roams, the Christian God is found. According to Evangelicals, humans cannot escape God. He is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

If these things are true, I’d love for a Christian to explain to me why it is that God can’t stop his followers from committing heinous crimes? Appealing to free will or sin won’t work. Why? God is in control of everything. If he is in control of everything, then that includes sin. If he is the sovereign over the universe, and nothing happens apart from his purpose, decree, and plan, what does that say about the notion of free will?  If humans truly have free will and can choose as they please, this means that God is not in control; that God’s plans can be frustrated by human volition. (Let the theological wrangling and justifications begin.) Well Bruce, you have to understand ____________. Actually, I don’t. All I am doing here is taking what Christians say at face value. If God is whom Evangelicals say he is, and has the power they say he does, this means that God is culpable for what happens day after day on this dying planet of ours.

Let me ask again, why can’t God stop his followers from committing heinous crimes? If, as Evangelicals assert, God, the Holy Spirit, lives in all believers and is their teacher and guide, why do Christians commit vile, horrendous crimes? Take Matthew Phelps, who stabbed his Christian wife over a hundred times. Explain how a Bible college-trained preacher could commit such a crime. Explain how it is that the news daily reports stories about Evangelical “men of God” committing adultery, stealing church funds, raping teenagers, and sexually molesting children. Why doesn’t Jehovah stop these God-called, Spirit-filled, Bible-reading, praying servants of his from committing these crimes (and others that aren’t reported). Is it that God can’t; that he is powerless to do so? Is it that humans do what humans do, and there is nothing God can do to keep them from doing so? It seems to me, based on an ever-increasing mountain of evidence, that if there is a God who created everything, he is an idle bystander, unwilling or unable to lift a finger to keep his followers from sodomizing boys, sexually assaulting little girls, and preying on adult women.

There was a time when Evangelicals could argue that criminals such as David Hyles or Bob Gray (Jacksonville, Florida) were outliers; that pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, deacons, and bus workers who commit crimes are as rare as a dodo bird sighting. Thanks to the internet and the willingness of victims to publicly share their stories, we now know the Evangelicals have just as big of a crime problem as the Catholic church does. And even before the internet, there was gossip about this or that preacher being arrested or run out of his church. Solomon was right when said there is nothing new under the sun.

Evangelical church leaders love to rail against the world and its “sins,” yet these same behaviors are found among the fraternity. Does anyone really believe that Ted Haggard and Jack Hyles are the exceptions to the rule; that yes, preachers can and do commit crimes, but such behavior is rarely found in Evangelical houses of God? I remember a day when Evangelicals thundered against the sins of the world — fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and divorce. Look at our strong, lifelong marriages, pastors would say. Look at our moral purity. We owe it all to JESUS!  Now we know better. Evangelical pastors and their congregants sin just as much as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. We know that pastors are not the pillars of virtue they claim to be: that they have sex with women to whom they are not married, and surf porn sites just like their counterparts in the world. (Please read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

It seems, then, that Evangelicals aren’t any different from the rest of us; that all their talk about being new creations in Christ Jesus is just that, talk. Now, this doesn’t mean that Christianity is worthless. People find purpose, meaning, and community through religion. That said, I do wonder if pastors stood before their congregations and said, God is not who and what we claim he is and we are just as fucked up as the rest of the world, what would happen? If the notion of a personal, caring God is destroyed, what’s left for Christians besides Grandma Mary’s cherry pie? If there is no difference morally between the saved and the lost, where does that leave Christianity?

Of course — thanks to cognitive dissonance — my words will be loudly and roundly rejected. There is machinery to maintain and gears to grease. There are offerings to collect and souls to save. Evangelicals dare not let reality get in the way of perpetuating the myth — that Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Preacher Matthew Phelps Stabs His Wife Repeatedly, Blames Cough Medicine

lauren hugelmaier

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In September 2017, Evangelical preacher Matthew Phelps murdered his wife, Lauren Hugelmaier, stabbing her over one-hundred times. Phelps, a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, Kentucky, told police that his murderous behavior was due to hallucinations from overusing the cough and cold medication, Coricidin HBP.  A spokesman for Bayer, the maker of Coricidin, stated, “There is no evidence to suggest that Coricidin is associated with violent behavior.”

Today, the Charlotte Observer reports that Phelps was obsessed with the movie American Psycho:

A man who told police that he thought he killed his wife after taking cold medicine was fascinated with the horror film “American Psycho” and talked to a friend about what it would be like to kill someone, according to search warrants.

Matthew Phelps, a 29-year-old Bible college graduate, called 911 just after 1:10 a.m. Sept. 1. He said his wife of less than a year, Lauren Hugelmaier Phelps, had been stabbed. He then told police that he had taken Coricidin and awoke to find his wife dead and a knife on the bed in their home on Patuxent Drive in North Raleigh.

Police charged Phelps with first-degree murder in the case, which has gained national attention with experts weighing in on the potential side effects of cold medicine and cough syrup.

Documents filed with the Wake County Magistrate’s Office say the couple had been having marital problems, and a Raleigh police detective wrote that Phelps appeared to be fascinated with “American Psycho,” a movie about a serial killer. Investigators learned that Phelps maintained an Instagram account with the username marty_radical.

“It was learned that Matthew Phelps was obsessed with the movie ‘American Psycho’ and this Instagram account shows numerous photographs of scenes from the movie and Phelps dressed as the main character,” the detective wrote. “The movie is about a serial killer, and Phelps expressed interest to a friend regarding what it would be like to kill someone.”

Police asked permission to search “any video games, movies, pictures or electronic media that might contain evidence of fascination with felonious or homicidal activity,” according to documents.

Friends told investigators that the couple “would argue frequently” and had been disagreeing about finances, according to police. Matthew Phelps “was spending more money than the couple made,” a detective wrote, and Lauren Phelps “had recently taken drastic steps to limit her husband’s spending.”

….

matthew and lauren phelps

According to friends, Phelps and his wife frequently argued, and she was planning on filing for divorce. This was a second marriage for Matthew Phelps.  In 2011, Phelps married Lana Bowlin. They later divorced.

The Charlotte Observer adds:

Detectives obtained a total of seven search warrants to seize cellphones that belonged to the couple, information from their respective Facebook accounts, the townhouse they shared and their vehicles: a 2014 Ford Fusion and a 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander.

The investigators used the warrants to seize electronic devices, handwritten documents and two books, “Party Games” and “American Supernatural Tales,” from the home. More handwritten notes and a diary were seized from the vehicles.

Although investigators found blood on Matthew Phelps when they arrived at the couple’s home, the detectives reported finding evidence that suggested he cleaned himself up before calling 911.

The police found Lauren Phelps “clutching hair in hands at the time of her death.”

….

In October of 2017, state pathologists detailed the brutality of Lauren Phelps’ death:

Lauren Nicole Hugelmaier Phelps was the victim of 123 stab wounds and cuts last month during a frenzied attack in the bedroom of her home, according to an autopsy report made public Tuesday. Her husband, who faces murder charges, contends he took too much cold medicine before falling asleep, then awoke to find his wife’s bloody body.

State pathologists documented 44 cuts and stabs, some more than 4 inches deep, about her head and neck during the attack, according to the autopsy report. Those were part of a total 123 stabs and cuts all over her body that were thought to have been made with a kitchen knife, the autopsy said.

….

Emergency workers arrived at the couple’s townhouse in northwest Raleigh and found Lauren Phelps, 29, in a fetal position on the bedroom floor, according to the autopsy report. She was rushed to WakeMed and died in the emergency department at 1:43 a.m., according to the autopsy report.

In addition to the wounds to her head and neck, pathologists found 13 stab wounds and 11 cuts about her torso, 16 slashes and one stab wound on her right arm, along with 35 cuts and three stab wounds on her left arm. A stab wound on the left side of her neck completely severed her left jugular vein and her left common carotid artery, which supplies the head and neck with blood. Her body was covered with smeared blood, according to the autopsy report.

The state examiners surmised that the wound patterns were consistent with a single-edged blade, according to the autopsy report. Toxicologists did not detect alcohol in the woman’s body, nor did she have any pre-existing natural disease.

….

Previous Black Collar Crime post about the murder of Lauren Phelps.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor-in-Training Matthew Phelps Accused of Murdering His Wife

matthew and lauren phelps

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Matthew Phelps, an Evangelical pastor-in-training at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville,Kentucky, stands accused of murdering his wife.

People.com reports:

A 28-year-old North Carolina man is facing a murder charge after allegedly stabbing his wife in bed — but the newlywed claims he doesn’t remember carrying out the alleged crime because he might have done it in his sleep, PEOPLE confirms.

Matthew Phelps, of Raleigh, called police distraught early Friday morning, declaring that his wife, Lauren, was dead on their bedroom floor covered in blood.

“I had a dream and then I turned on the lights and she’s dead on the floor,” he says in a 911 call obtained by PEOPLE. “I have blood all over me and there’s a bloody knife on the bed and I think I did it. I can’t believe this.”

He told the dispatcher through tears that his wife wasn’t breathing and that he was afraid to get close to her — “I’m so scared,” he said.

Phelps is charged with murder and is being held at Wake County Detention Center without bail, a jail spokesperson tells PEOPLE. As police work to determine the circumstances around Lauren’s death, Phelps suggested during the 911 call that cold medicine he took the night before might have led to his alleged actions.

I took more medicine than I should have,” he said. “I took Coricidin Cough and Cold because I know it can make you feel good. A lot of times I can’t sleep at night. So, I took some.”

He added: “Oh my God. She didn’t deserve this.”

Phelps and Lauren had been married for less than a year, ABC News reports. Both of their apparent Facebook pages are filled with wedding photos of the young couple along with pictures that show their shared love for Star Wars.

Phelps’ account shows that he studied missions and evangelism at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College. Lauren was a Sunday school teacher and Phelps was studying to be a pastor, a friend told ABC.

….

Matthew Phelps has been married before. In 2011, Phelps married Lana Bowlin:

Lana Bowlin of Mount Vernon announces the engagement of her daughter, Marlanda Brooke Bowlin, to Matthew James Phelps, son of Melodye and Jason Campbell and grandson of Amel and Teresa Hardcastle of Bowling Green.

Brooke is also the daughter of the late Marvin Bowlin. She is a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church.
Matthew is a graduate of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and is a member of Calvary Baptist Church.

The wedding will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 6, 2011, at Calvary Baptist Church, with a reception afterward at the church.

Update

In an October 18, 2017 report for The Morning Call, Thomas McDonald wrote:

Lauren Nicole Hugelmaier Phelps was the victim of 123 stab wounds and cuts last month during a frenzied attack in the bedroom of her home, according to an autopsy report made public Tuesday. Her husband, who faces murder charges, contends he took too much cold medicine before falling asleep, then awoke to find his wife’s bloody body.

State pathologists documented 44 cuts and stabs, some more than 4 inches deep, about her head and neck during the attack, according to the autopsy report. Those were part of a total 123 stabs and cuts all over her body that were thought to have been made with a kitchen knife, the autopsy said.

Matthew James Phelps, 29, is charged with first-degree murder and is currently being held in the Wake County jail without benefit of bail. Phelps called 911 just before 1:10 a.m. on Sept. 1 and described to a dispatcher that he had awakened to the bloody scene.

Emergency workers arrived at the couple’s townhouse in northwest Raleigh and found Lauren Phelps, 29, in a fetal position on the bedroom floor, according to the autopsy report. She was rushed to WakeMed and died in the emergency department at 1:43 a.m., according to the autopsy report.

In addition to the wounds to her head and neck, pathologists found 13 stab wounds and 11 cuts about her torso, 16 slashes and one stab wound on her right arm, along with 35 cuts and three stab wounds on her left arm. A stab wound on the left side of her neck completely severed her left jugular vein and her left common carotid artery, which supplies the head and neck with blood. Her body was covered with smeared blood, according to the autopsy report.

The state examiners surmised that the wound patterns were consistent with a single-edged blade, according to the autopsy report. Toxicologists did not detect alcohol in the woman’s body, nor did she have any pre-existing natural disease.

….