June 6th Hearing for Fenner Case Delayed

Late Friday, sources close to the Matthew Fenner case confirmed the hearing set for June 6th has been postponed. No confirmed date for rescheduling is available at this time. Possible reasons for the postponement include Judge Pope having an unexpected scheduling conflict.

The hearing on Monday would have been the first in this case since August of last year. Five defendants, who were at the time of the alleged incidents members of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF), face varied charges including second degree kidnapping, simple assault and one for assault by strangulation. These defendants are Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, JR. and Adam Bartley.

Matthew Fenner alleges that on January 27, 2013, he was assaulted in the sanctuary of WOFF during a “deliverance” session. The five defendants were named and indicted in December 2014 after an initial hearing. Once the new District Attorney Ted Bell took office in January 2015, he set aside those indictments amid rumors of improper procedures and possible witness tampering and presented the evidence to a second grand jury. This session secured for the State a set of indictments which Bell described as clean true bills of indictment. [ Timeline for this case – here.]

Pretrial motions and hearings resulted in Judge Marvin Pope signing an ORDER of Disqualification against Tomblin, Farmer and Morris (Josh Farmer and Mark Morris) and their associates. This ORDER barred the named attorneys, who were WOFF members, from representing any of the five defendants. Several pretrial motions have yet to be resolved including a motion for change of venue and a change of venire. One issue not addressed by the Court up to this point; WOFF holds the secured bond for all five defendants. This fact has been noted in court documents, but not addressed or corrected. This anomaly gives WOFF a set of choices which could affect the defendants in a less than positive fashion.

While this newest delay may at first glance be disheartening for onlookers, let us remember a lesson from previous months. In September of last year, when Josh Farmer appealed the ORDER of Disqualification from Judge Pope against Farmer and his team, many lamented at the legal delay. However, as the case lay practically dormant waiting for the North Carolina Court of Appeals to rule; one of the five defendants, Sarah Covington Anderson separated from the confines of WOFF. This development may not have occurred if Sarah had been in the middle of a trial to defend herself against the indictments which include second degree kidnapping and assault by strangulation. Adam Bartley is the second defendant who is no longer a member of WOFF.

The Appeal filed by Farmer and the resulting delay had an unintended consequence of allowing Sarah Anderson time and space to consider and make an exit. (Thank you, Josh!) The decision to leave WOFF has come at great cost as Sarah’s husband, Nick Anderson, stayed in the group. Mr. Anderson has taken the WOFF-normal approach of turning on his wife of several years and fighting for custody of their son. This custody case has already drawn the attention of Judge Laura Powell in her temporary visitation order warning both parents- No yelling, shaking or striking of the minor child! Additional revelations concerning marital life inside WOFF are contained in the court documents. We will reveal and explain them in a future post.

June Trial Scheduled for Word of Life Christian Church Members (NY)

Friday, two of the defendants in the Leonard murder case appeared in court. The step-sister, Sarah Ferguson and father of the deceased, Bruce Leonard, were denied an adjournment motion presented by their attorneys.

From the Utica Observer Dispatch:

“Sarah Ferguson and Bruce Leonard are two of nine people accused of varying degrees of involvement in a 14-hour October counseling session at the Chadwicks church that involved beating 19-year-old Lucas Leonard, who died of his injuries, and 17-year-old Christopher Leonard, who was injured seriously. Of those defendants, one has accepted a plea offer.”

Judge Michael Dwyer announced in open court that jury selection is set for June 22nd and opening statements to begin June 24th. The Judge also issued a strict gag order on this case. Attorneys for the nine defendants will not be able to discuss the case until they are in open court.

We have been following this case because of the similarities in the levels of control exhibited by the pastor of Word of Life Christian Church (WOLCC), Tiffani Irwin and Word of Faith Fellowship leader, Jane Whaley. Each group shows signs of harmful control over its members requiring an inordinate level of loyalty and strict obedience.

In the indictments against the nine church members, the District Attorney is seeking “gang assault” charges as well as kidnapping and murder charges. The mother of the two teenagers, Deborah Leonard, has already accepted a plea deal in exchange for her testimony about the incidents that fateful night in October of 2015. It has been learned that both teenagers were seeking to exit the controlling group and the “counseling session” was to address their “sin.” (another source on the case- here.)

Sound familiar? WOFF members wake up. The harmful dynamics inside your group are not normal and healthy. Do what you can to protect yourself- now. Face the fears of the shunning and seek safety for your body and soul.

2016 the Year for Changes!

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Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 568.

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