Tag Archive: Murder

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Masimba Chirayi Accused of Murdering Woman, Thinking She was a Vampire

arrested

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.

Masimba Chirayi, a pastor with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect in Zimbabwe, stands accused of murdering church member Wendy Thinnamay Masuka. Over the weekend, while baptizing Masuka in a nearby river, Chirayi drowned the woman, thinking she was a “vampire possessed by demons.” According to New ZImbabwe, Chirayi thought Masuska was going to kill people, so he held her under water until he overpowered her (Greek for she stopped breathing).

Chirayi’s bail has been set at $50.

Unfamiliar with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect? You can find more information 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: Pastor Kenny Glasgow Charged with Murder

kenny glasgow

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.

Kenneth “Kenny” Glasgow, a well-known preacher in the Dothan, Alabama area, stands accused of capital murder.

The Dothan Eagle reports:

A well-known community activist has been arrested and charged with capital murder in connection with a fatal shooting Sunday night on Allen Road.

Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish said police believe the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, 52, was the driver of a vehicle involved in the shooting of 23-year-old Breunia Jennings of Dothan. Also charged is 26-year-old Jamie Townes of Dothan, whom police believe to be the trigger man.

Police believe Townes was angry at Jennings because he believed she stole his car. The two men are being held at the Houston County Jail without bail.

Under Alabama law, a person believed to have aided or abetted a criminal act is equally liable for the underlying act.

“Patrol units were responding to a suspicious vehicle call near Stringer Street AME Church,” Parrish said during a press conference Monday at the Dothan Police Department. “When the units approached the area, they noticed a situation that appeared to be an automobile accident. However, when officers approached the area they knew the scene was a homicide.”

Parrish stated the investigation is ongoing and additional arrests may occur since additional passengers are believed to have been in the vehicle police say was driven by Glasgow.
….

Glasgow has been involved in several community movements since being released from prison. He was convicted on drug charges in the late 1980s. Upon his release, he founded The Ordinary People Society, a community and homeless ministry in Dothan. He has advocated for the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons and helped start Moma Tina’s Mission House in Dothan, along with his mother.

Glasgow has referred to himself as Kenny Sharpton Glasgow on several occasions and is believed to be the half brother of the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network.

Under Alabama law, murder committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon while the victim is in a vehicle is considered a capital crime. A person convicted of a capital crime is eligible for life in prison without parole or death.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Aracely Meza Convicted of Starving Child to Death

aracely meza

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.

Aracely Meza, pastor of Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey in Balch Springs, Texas, was convicted of starving a child to death and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison on Friday.

The Dallas News reports:

Aracely Meza cradles the limp body of a 2-year-old boy, praying for God to bring the starved toddler back to life.

The moment was captured on videos that a Dallas County jury watched this week before finding the Balch Springs pastor guilty Friday of felony injury to a child causing serious bodily injury.

The 52-year-old will serve 99 years in prison for Benjamin Aparicio’s starvation death, one month before his third birthday. Jurors also ordered Meza to pay a $10,000 fine.

Videos captured the hours-long resurrection ceremony Meza led after Benjamin died on March 22, 2015. In the video, the boy is frail, nothing but skin and bones. His clothes hang from his lifeless body.
Weeks before his death, Meza had ordered that food be withheld from Benjamin for 21 days because she believed he was possessed by the “demon of manipulation.”

The 52-year-old woman’s trial offered a glimpse into the control she had over congregants of her church, Iglesia Internacional Jesus es el Rey.

Her Balch Springs home, where the boy lived with his parents, served as a commune.

Meza separated parents from their children, including Benjamin while he was still being breastfed. Though his mother and father lived in the same home, they weren’t allowed to hold their child.

Many turned to the pastor of the evangelical nondenominational church because she claimed to be a prophet.

She performed exorcisms and ordered people to fast.

Nazareth Zurita described feeling like she was in a “trance” when she lived in Meza’s house. She admitted she didn’t intervene while Benjamin was being starved.

Anytime someone questioned Meza, the pastor would say, “The devil is speaking through you. You’re the devil,” Zurita testified.

Those who questioned Meza were questioning God.

Zurita said she now realizes that Meza would use “distorted Scripture” to control the members of her church. Zurita called it “brainwashing.”

Jurors watched videos of a starving Benjamin being held up and prayed over by Meza. They were also shown the video showing Meza trying to revive the dead child.

A video shot the day he died shows Meza propping up the child, who had fallen on the kitchen floor. She then puts him over her knee, pulls down his pants and spanks him over and over. The boy cries.

….

Defense attorney Charles Humphreys called Meza “a prisoner of her faith.” But prosecutor Patrick Capetillo argued that Benjamin’s death was not about faith.

“This case is not about religion. This case is about control,” he said. [Sorry, it’s about both. It’s the religion that birthed the control.]

 

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Tim Crumitie Accused of Murder

tim crumitie

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.

Tim Crumitie, former pastor of an unnamed church, stands accused of murder.

The Charlotte Observer reports:

One of two bullets lodged in her head made it difficult for Kimberly Cherry to speak.

When asked by a 911 operator in August 2016 to identify the person who had shot her, Cherry’s halting voice seemed to teeter on the edge of consciousness. But her answer was clear.

“His name is Tim,” she said.

Sitting between his two attorneys, Tim Crumitie showed no emotion Monday morning as the voice of his former girlfriend – and an expected witness against him – wafted through the courtroom, opening the former minister’s first-degree murder trial in a haunting way.

The 52-year-old convicted felon is accused of the predawn ambush of Cherry and her boyfriend Michael Gretsinger in University City. Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Clayton Jones told the jury that after springing from behind the front door of the couple’s apartment, Crumitie fired two shots, execution style, into Gretsinger’s head. The Charlotte man died about 10 days later.

Crumitie then bound the arms of Cherry, put her in the passenger seat of her own car, and eventually drove her to his Rowan County home, Jones said, “figuring out what he wanted to do.”

Later that morning, Crumitie doubled back, Jones said, driving Cherry’s car to a construction site near her apartment. There, according to Jones, Crumitie shot her once in the back of the head. After Cherry fell to the ground, Jones said, Crumitie shot her again in the left temple.

Miraculously, Cherry was still alive when Crumitie put her in the trunk of the car and started driving again. Eventually the car stopped. At that point, Cherry popped the trunk and escaped, Jones said. A neighbor at the Ardmore Kings Grant apartments called 911.

Eventually, Cherry got on line. “Please send someone to help me,” she said.

If convicted of the murder charge, Crumitie faces a mandatory life in prison without parole. He is also charged with assault, kidnapping and attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Cherry.

….

How much they [the jury] will hear about Crumitie’s past before making that decision remains unclear.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis cleared the way for prosecutors to mention that Crumitie served eight years in prison back in the 1990s for armed robbery and other crimes.

Crumitie also has been physically present or criminally linked to three mysterious shooting deaths over less than a decade – including those of his wife and a former business partner.

In 2005, while Crumitie was a Kannapolis pastor, he was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Danny Johnson, who operated a flooring company next door to the church. Crumitie spent five years in jail before authorities dropped the charges, saying they lacked the evidence to take the case to trial.

Eight years later, Crumitie was the lone surviving witness to a double homicide inside the garage of his Concord home.

He told police that during an attempted robbery, James Blanks fatally shot Crumitie’s wife, Sharon, then shot Crumitie in the hand before Crumitie wrested the gun away and shot and killed Blanks in self defense. No charges were filed.

At the time of the 2016 shooting, Gretsinger’s family questioned why someone with Crumitie’s background was not in jail.

“It’s shocking. It’s frightening … Why is he out there?” Kim Gretsinger, the victim’s mother, told WCCB the day after the shooting.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Tiffanie Irwin Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter

pastor tiffanie irwin

Tiffanie Irwin, pastor of Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, New York, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to twelve years in prison. Eight other church members were sentenced for their parts in the crime.

In October 2016, The Daily Mail reported:

The pastor of a small church where two brothers were beaten for hours during a counseling session that she called pleaded guilty on Friday to manslaughter and assault.

Three other church members admitted to less serious charges for their roles in the all-night beatings that killed Lucas Leonard, 19, and injured Christopher Leonard, 17, last October.

Word of Life Christian Church Pastor Tiffanie Irwin, her brother Joseph Irwin and mother and son church members Linda Morey and David Morey were the last of nine people charged to be convicted in the attack.

Investigators said the attack took place after the brothers discussed leaving the congregation.

Joseph Irwin and the Moreys each pleaded guilty to assault.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara called the case ‘a terrible tragedy.’

‘I can only hope that Luke can rest in peace, Chris can get on with his life,’ McNamara said.

The victims’ parents and half-sister and the pastor’s mother and a second brother were among those charged after members of the secretive church took the bloodied body of Lucas Leonard to a hospital, where doctors initially thought he had been shot.

Authorities later found his badly injured brother still inside the converted New Hartford school building that housed the church and living space for its leaders.

Christopher Leonard testified at an earlier hearing that Tiffanie Irwin asked his family and some others to stay behind for a meeting after an eight-hour Sunday service last October.

Over the next 14 hours, he said, he and his brother were pummeled in their torsos and genitals with an electrical cord.

McNamara has said the brothers were ordered during the beating to repent for a variety of sins, including using a voodoo doll.

Police have said there was no evidence to support a claim by their half-sister, Sarah Ferguson, that they had molested her children.

Ferguson was convicted of manslaughter and assault after a non-jury trial in July.

The only defendant to decline a plea deal, she was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison.

The victims’ parents, Deborah and Bruce Leonard, pleaded guilty to assault.

The church’s matriarch, Traci Irwin, and her son Daniel Irwin, a deacon, admitted to counts of unlawful imprisonment.

Sentencings are scheduled for December and January.

According to Wikipedia, the following sentences were handed down:

As of January 9, 2017 the disposition of the cases against the nine people involved on the assault on Lucas Leonard are as follows:

Bruce Leonard, the father, who whipped both boys during the session pleaded guilty to felony assault was sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

Deborah Leonard, the mother, who whipped them during the session pleaded guilty to felony assault, and was sentenced to five years in state prison.

On September 1, 2016 half sister Sarah Ferguson was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted in July 2016 of manslaughter and assault.

Pastor Tiffanie Irwin, age 29, who called for the counseling session and oversaw its organization was sentenced on Dec. 19, 2016 to 12 years in state prison for manslaughter.

Joseph Irwin was sentenced on Dec. 19 to eight years in prison for gang assault.

David Morey was sentenced on Jan. 9, 2017 to five years in prison for assault.

Linda Morey who pulled the power cord out of the closet was sentenced on Jan. 9 to five years in prison for assault.

Traci Irwin, 50, and Daniel Irwin, 25, both pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment. Traci Irwin, who pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful imprisonment in the first degree, has been sentenced to one year for each count. Daniel Irwin received two years in jail for his role in the death of Lucas Leonard.

 

Black Collar Crime: Woman Kills Adult Daughter With a Crucifix Because She Was Possessed by the Devil

geneva gomez

Geneva Gomez

Juanita Gomez, believing her daughter Geneva was possessed by the devil, shoved a crucifix down her throat, killing her in process. Today, Gomez was found guilty of first-degree murder. You might ask, Bruce, why are you publishing this story? This is not a crime committed by a clergyman. Actually, there is likely a clergyman responsible for putting in Gomez’s mind that there is a devil and he can possess people. Sadly, mythical nonsense can lead to all sorts of criminal behavior. As I looked at Geneva Gomez’s photograph, I couldn’t help but think that the coroner should put RELIGION as the cause of death on the death certificate.

CBS reports:

A jury in Oklahoma has convicted a woman of killing her 33-year-old daughter by forcing a crucifix and medallion down her throat because she believed the daughter was possessed by the devil.

Juanita Gomez, 51, was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2016 death of Geneva Gomez.

Geneva Gomez’s boyfriend found her lying on the ground inside her mother’s Oklahoma City home with her arms spread out as if she had been crucified. She was bloody and nearly unrecognizable, with a large crucifix placed on her chest and severe trauma to her face and head, police said.

Juanita Gomez allegedly admitted to punching her daughter repeatedly and forcing the religious symbols down the victim’s throat until blood came out of the woman’s mouth.

Gomez allegedly told police that she watched her daughter die and then placed her body in the shape of a cross. She then tried to clean her daughter and other items in the home, according to police.

Police noted that Juanita Gomez had very swollen hands and several bruises on her arms. She allegedly told police they were from her daughter fighting, during the attempt to “rid Satan from her daughter’s body.”

A psychologist found her competent to stand trial and said she was feigning memory problems to appear incompetent.

Gomez’s murder trial began this month, reports CBS affiliate KWTV. Jurors saw gruesome images of the victim’s body as her mother reportedly cried. Jurors also heard emotional testimony from Francisco Merlos, the boyfriend who found the victim’s body, and heard his frantic 911 call.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Church Elder Robert Harris Accused of Murdering His Wife

robert harris

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.

Robert Harris, an elder at Repairers Kansas City (also known as Repairers of the Breach Christian Center) in Kansas City, Missouri, was charged yesterday with murdering his wife, Tanisha Harris.

The Kansas City Star reports:

An Overland Park man was charged Wednesday with the killing of his wife, whose body was found in Cass County.

Johnson County prosecutors charged Robert Lee Harris Jr. with premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Tanisha Harris.

Overland Park police said Tuesday that officers were called to the couple’s apartment in the 8000 block of Perry Street around 4 p.m. Monday for a domestic disturbance.

Robert Harris was alone in the apartment, police said.

But later Monday night, he called police back to the apartment and and told them his wife was missing. Officers became suspicious of what he told them, and he then allegedly admitted he had a role in her disappearance, according to police.

The body of Tanisha Harris, 38, was found Tuesday morning in Cass County, and her 30-year-old husband was booked into the Johnson County Detention Center.

Court documents do not say how Tanisha Harris died.

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Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest John Feit Found Guilty of 1960 Murder of 25-Year-Old School Teacher

john feit

John Feit, a former priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas, was found guilty today of murdering a 25-year-old parishioner in 1960.

My San Antonio reports:

A former priest accused of killing a Rio Grande Valley beauty queen in 1960 was found guilty of murder with malice aforethought Thursday after a jury deliberated for about six hours.

John Feit, now 85, sat stone-faced and showed no emotion as he was convicted of killing Irene Garza, a 25-year school teacher, when he was 27 and serving as a fill-in priest in the Valley. Family members of the victim hugged each other after the verdict was read.

Garza was last seen going to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen where Feit heard her confession. Her body was found five days later in a canal. Autopsy results showed she had been raped while unconscious and died of asphyxiation, likely from suffocation.

Garza’s grisly killing during Holy Week 1960 haunted South Texas for decades and was the subject of a 48 Hours television special.

Feit’s conviction brings an end to one of the oldest cases in the Hidalgo County judicial system, but leaves unresolved allegations of a deal cut between the district attorney and church leaders to stop the investigation into Feit and avoid a scandal.

Will Murderous Evangelical Pastor Christopher Gattis Go to Heaven When He Dies?

christopher gattis

As the Black Collar Crime series has shown, Evangelical pastors can and do commit all sorts of crimes, including — in the case of Missouri-Synod Lutheran pastor Christopher Gattis — murder. Gattis stands accused of murdering his wife, stepdaughter, and the stepdaughter’s boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day.

Gattis worked for and was a member of a church that believes “the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God and the only revelation on both beliefs and practice.”  Lutherans believe people must persevere until the end to be saved (as do Calvinists). The difference between Lutherans and Calvinists, according to Douglas Sweeney, chair of the church history and history of Christian thought department and director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is that Lutherans believe:

….the elect will certainly persevere in faith. God is not impotent to carry out his decrees respecting salvation. But not everyone who is born again is among God’s elect. It is possible for regenerated people to apostatize. So perseverance is largely a matter of walking in step with the Spirit, persevering, and encouraging other people to do the same.

According to Sweeney, Martin Luther believed that there were sins that could result in people losing their faith. Luther wrote:

“it is necessary to know and teach that when holy people—aside from the fact that they still have and feel original sin and also daily repent of it and struggle against it—somehow fall into a public sin (such as David, who fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy against god), at that point faith and the Spirit have departed.” Luther, Smalcald Articles (1537), 3.3

None of us can know Christopher Gattis’ “heart.” For the purpose of this post, I am going to assume that he was a good Missouri-Synod Christian who loved Jesus, and the moment he committed the very public sin of homicide, the Spirit of God took flight from his soul and Gattis is now a sinner in need of conversion.

Using murderous, adulterous David as an example, Luther believed that when King David publicly sinned against God, faith and the Holy Spirit departed. Gattis, much like David, had a record of misconduct. In 2010 he was accused of public intoxication, and in 2012 he was charged with assault and battery.  Kevin Defford, his victim in the assault, said the following to the NBC-12:

“He was on edge that day, was my thinking,” says Kevin Defford, who is the victim in the 2012 case.

Defford was delivering samples of a newspaper with his son and tossed one onto Christopher Gattis’ driveway.

“On the way up, he had come from his driveway and was standing in the middle of the road,” said Defford.

He says Christopher Gattis threw the paper at his face and started yelling, even going as far as to pull out a box cutter.

“The fact that he pulled the box cutter, it had me thinking about my son at that point, and that’s why the police were called,” says Defford. “But again, it seemed like he was on edge that day when I met him.”

Christopher Gattis was found guilty, but the charge was dismissed once Christopher Gattis paid restitution. Now knowing this man is connected to a triple murder has Defford shaken.

“Now it makes me wonder a little more um, what might have been,” he said.

blood of jesus

It seems that Gattis has had several bouts of faithlessness. The good news is that if Gattis repents — telling God, my bad, Jesus. I promise never to kill anyone again — he can, once again, become a man after God’s own heart. No sin — no matter how perverse, vile, disgusting, or evil — is beyond the forgiving power of the miraculous blood of Jesus. For Gattis, restoration is but a prayer away.

Or is it?

Evangelicals love to talk about how bad they were before they became new creations in Christ Jesus. As anyone who has sat through a Baptist testimony time can attest, wild claims of depravity are quite common. The greater the sin, the greater the grace needed to save sinners from their sins. Over the course of the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, I never heard believers minimize their sinfulness. Oh no, the bigger the sinner, the better. This is why the history of Evangelicalism is filled with stories about people who were once witches, Satanists, and mob hit men before J-e-s-u-s saved them. Such people regale congregations with stories of murder, sexual abuse, demonic possession, sacrificing infants to Satan, and all sorts of perversion. Yet, Jesus somehow, some way, reached down into their wretched souls and saved them. (Of course, many of these wild testimonies are lies straight from the mythical pit of hell.)

Murderers present a real conundrum for Evangelicals. They know that David was a murderer, yet God forgave him, and he was considered not only a man after God’s own heart, but also a relative of Jesus. Evangelicals read and hear stories about murderers whose lives were transformed by the mighty working power of the triune God. This must mean, then, that murderers can be saved too, that even killing your family or strafing innocent men, women and children with weaponized drones is within the purview of Jesus, the savior of humankind. But, is it really? What does the Bible say on the matter?

Revelation 21:8 states:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

Revelation 22:14,15 adds:

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.  For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. [OMG! all dogs go to hell!]

The writer of First John said:

Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)

Speaking of reprobates — those beyond the grace of God — the Apostle Paul said:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:26-32)

Paul emphatically states in Galatians 5:19-21 that murderers shall not inherit the Kingdom of God:

 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Did Christopher Gattis, by murdering his family, cross a line of no return? Has his nonrefundable ticket for the Lake of Fire been punched? Or, is there still hope for Gattis; that if he really, really, really says he is s-o-r-r-y that God will say to him, aw shucks, Chris, I forgive you. The Bible is incoherent on this matter, as it is with virtually every other theological, cultural, and social issue Christians say the Bible addresses. God said it, and that settles it, right?

Of course, there is no God, so flesh-and-blood humans are left with the unenviable task of trying to figure out why Gattis picked up a gun and murdered those closest to him. Was he mentally ill? Was he under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Did he shoot them in a fit of rage? If so, what caused him to be so angry? So many questions, and regardless of the answers, Gattis, if convicted, should spend the rest of his life in prison (and I know some readers think this is a death-penalty-worthy crime).

I grieve for those left behind in the wake of Gattis homicidal rage. And for those who attempt to paper over this tragedy with God, prayer, and faith? Child, please. Stop excusing bad behavior with nonsensical theological arguments and clichés. What’s next? — God needed more good angels so he used Christopher Gattis to send his family to heaven; that God always works things out according to his purpose and plan? Enough, already. (Please read Sutherland Springs Massacre: God Answered the Victims Prayers by Allowing Them to be Murdered.)

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 Youth Pastor Christopher Gattis Charged With Three Counts of First-Degree Murder

christopher gattis

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.

Christopher Gattis, a youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia, stands accused of murdering his wife, stepdaugther, and the stepdaughter’s boyfriend.

Fox News reports;

A Virginia youth pastor has been arrested in the shooting deaths of his wife, stepdaughter and the stepdaughter’s boyfriend in their home on Thanksgiving Day, police said.

Christopher Gattis, 58, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

Police arriving at the family’s Chester, Va., home around 11:30 p.m. found the women’s bodies inside and the man’s body in the front yard, officials said.

 

Authorities identified the victims as Jeanett Gattis, 58; her daughter Candice “Candy” Kunze, 30; and Kunze’s boyfriend, Andrew Buthorn, 36. All of them lived together in the home, police said.

Neighbors said Kunze recently moved back home from Oregon, with Buthorn joining her. Neighbors also said the family runs a furniture store in nearby Petersburg, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reported.

Gattis was a youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, where he was a ministries coordinator for middle school and high school students.

“Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester, and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church,” the church said in a statement.

….

Update

A November 27, 2017 Richmond Times-Reporter story by Ali Rickett reports:

A 58-year-old youth ministry director at a Chester church appeared in court Monday for the first time since he was charged with allegedly killing his family on Thanksgiving night.

Christopher R. Gattis faces three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife, Jeanett L. Gattis, 58; his stepdaughter, Candice L. Kunze, 30; and Andrew E. Buthorn, 36, his stepdaughter’s boyfriend. All three victims lived with Christopher Gattis in a home in the 14900 block of Dogwood Ridge Court, according to police, who found Buthorn in the front yard and the two women in the kitchen around 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
It was Christopher Gattis who told the alarm company to send police, according to Elizabeth Caroon, a spokeswoman for the Chesterfield County Police Department. He was located outside the home and surrendered without incident.

Gattis was arraigned Monday in Chesterfield General District Court and in Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.
“Why am I in two different courts?” Gattis, who appeared by video from Riverside Regional Jail where he is being held without bond, asked the judge during his second arraignment.

Because two of the victims were family members, those cases were heard in domestic relations court, while the case involving Buthorn was in General District Court. They will likely be combined if the charges are certified by a grand jury and brought up to Circuit Court.

Gattis spoke clearly and calmly, though he hesitated at some of the legal questions, looking to someone off camera for prompting before answering. When he spoke, he tried to use his hands, which were cuffed together.

Both judges denied setting bond and appointed him an attorney, who can request a bond hearing later.

….