Tag Archives: Leaving a Cult

Who is rubbing her feet now?

Is it true? A good foot rub takes the stress away from aching feet. Surely it does. Consider this from two survivors of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) talking about their experience rubbing Jane Whaley’s feet.

A few years ago, a survivor told me in casual conversation that they rubbed Jane Whaley’s feet at her beck and call. I just listened and asked few questions. Looking back, I should have asked better questions. This individual did not present their participation in rubbing Jane’s feet as voluntary. Like many things inside WOFF, this was “ministry.” Who cares if you want to or that is late at night and you are tired? This person gave me the idea they just did it because they had to. It did not seem truly voluntary.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I am talking to another survivor. Out of the blue, they tell me they were also commissioned to rub Jane’s feet. At any time, they were subject to a call for foot ministry. To the point, they had blisters on their hands. Yikes! I also detected a forced submission – no genuine willingness- just duty.

The names of these two survivors is not important or my focus. My point is the attitude in common with both- each not knowing the other had told me their foot ministry story. There was no pre-planned coordination. Knowing that part of the scene brings more clarity for me. The glaring common trait in both cases was the feigned forced affection to give the illusion of willingness to perform the task. If this task was glamorized as “ministry,” then what else inside WOFF is classified as ministry? What other “labors” are classified as ministry and require an appearance of submission, all the while the member is churning inside?
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MISTRIAL: The wounds are still open…

Superior Court in Rutherford County

Tuesday morning began with a buzz of expectancy. Conversations were filled with exchanges of opinions and speculations about what the next few hours held. Could this be the day that Brooke Covington of the Word of Faith fellowship (WOFF) is convicted of simple assault and/or second-degree kidnapping? Or will the huge grin from last week return to her face as she is found not guilty on both counts?

Will Matthew Fenner return to his life in college with some satisfaction knowing the legal system in North Carolina has meted out justice in response to the five indictments surrounding the events of January 27, 2013 occurring inside the sanctuary of WOFF? Brooke Covington is the first trial as four others; Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley were also charged and await their fate. Who could have predicted the events that would unfold?

The jury assembled at 9:00AM and returned to deliberations shortly thereafter. When I entered to courtroom, the atmosphere was different from days previous. The witness sequestration was over and more people were in the room including media, supporters of Matthew and a crowd from WOFF. The number of media representatives was larger than days past. I took a seat and began speaking with an investigative reporter from another city.

Soon, I learned of an incident from earlier in the morning. A young man had made some negative comments to a jury member in the hallway, and after the bailiff consulted with the Judge, the man was arrested. The man was to be charged with harassment of a juror and Judge Gavenus had requested the young man appear before him for arraignment and bond. This was only a foretaste of things to come.
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Brooke the Bounty Hunter?

Rose in Low Light
Rose of the Day

Have you heard the saying, “Old habits die hard”? Friday afternoon we saw evidence of that very thing. At the end of Danielle Cordes’ testimony on re-cross, Attorney David Teddy appeared to be done with his questions. Before he acknowledged his ending to the court; he turned to Brooke to check to see if she had any further questions. After all, if he had missed some elusive jewel of knowledge which may help his client, he did not want to waste the moment.

The questions offered by Brooke appeared as simple questions to the unlearned. What was the most important thing on Brooke’s mind during a trial in which the verdict could alter her future in ways unknown? What was most pressing to take up court time during a day when the secrets of what happens behind the lily white doors had been revealed during sworn testimony? What was at the forefront of her cortex?

The questions she passed to Teddy were about Danielle’s brother, Steven. Do you know where your brother Steven lives? Danielle answered, “No, Sir.” Have you talked to your brother other than when he left a few weeks ago? “No, Sir”, she answered again.

Knowing the backstory reveals possible motive for Brooke to ask “bounty hunter” questions. Danielle’s younger brother, Steven, did leave Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) a few weeks ago. Then he returned. Turns out, he was in a WOFF-relationship with a young lady church member whose father has been head of the not so friendly security team. Let’s just say his performance on that team has been “electrifying.”

Friday afternoon, Steven was “in his place” at WOFF. However, there must have been some doubts in Brooke’s mind. Being a practiced retriever of members who try to escape, the questions she had Teddy ask Danielle were assessing potential exit routes should Steven and his lady friend make a break for freedom. Right she was.
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Fenner Case Update- Three Witnesses Testify for the State

At the close of Friday’s session, Judge Gary Gavenus announced with a smile that the jury was excused for the weekend recess. After two full days of witness testimony on behalf of the prosecution in the Matthew Fenner case, he ended with the often repeated precautions for the jury to not expose themselves to outside sources of information including news media, Internet or social media. He added they were not to talk to each other, family or anyone else about the case in any manner. His instructions were firm, but laced with an underlying tone of respect and consideration for the fourteen individuals who answered the call for this jury session.

This has been a full week as several Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) members, former church members, press correspondents and supporters endured two full days to select the needed jurors. After the last alternate juror was selected and the Judge gave the jury instructions; Matthew Fenner was the first witness called for the State on Thursday. He testified the rest of the day. As a result of each potential witness being sequestered (not present in the courtroom during any testimony of other witnesses), the gallery was less full than in the previous two days.

In an attempt to time my arrival, I missed the first part of Matthew’s testimony which included his description of the events of January 27, 2013. I was told by one who heard it; they believed it was emotional and impactful. I have not doubt. The part of Matthew’s testimony outlining the events leading up to his escape is where my notes start.
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Fenner Case Update: 7 Jurors Seated, 7 more needed

The first of possibly five separate trials in the Matthew Fenner case in Rutherford County began on Tuesday. Today’s session involved the State vs. Brooke McFadden Covington. By 9:51AM, Judge Gary Gavenus let everyone in the court know the Motion for a Change of Venue was “Denied!” He intended to move forward with jury selection, twelve jurors and two alternates.

Mrs. Covington is one of five defendants who include Justin Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. Indictments stemming from alleged incidents on January 27, 2013 at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in which Fenner claims he was assaulted include second-degree kidnapping, first degree assault and one count of attempted strangulation.

Leading up to the Judge’s announcement this morning was discussion which among other things included the question of plea deals or concessions to witnesses – of which Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers admitted there were none at this time after he had withdrawn the plea offered to Adam Bartley in prior months. Covington’s defense attorney David Teddy will be notified should any future deals or concessions be offered.

Additional conversation about one particular email between the State and an attorney for another defendant was reviewed by the Judge who then deemed it not pertinent to the case; sealed in an envelope and placed in the file. Judge Gavenus also outlined the procedure for interviewing jurors. They were to enter the court one at a time from the jury holding room. He would address them first, next Byers would asked questions and attorney Teddy would finish with his questions.

The left side of the courtroom was reserved for the jury pool. They were led in and out by the bailiff. He retrieved each new jury candidate and led them to their seat in the middle of the jury box. He directed their every step.

This arrangement meant the right side of the gallery was for everyone else. Everyone else included the distinct sub-groups, the media, now-WOFF members (leadership and those subpoenaed), ex-WOFF members (many who were witnesses) and family and supporters of Matthew. During the course of the day, it was clear each party knew the invisible boundaries which stood between the opposing groups. The signals became more confusing after lunch as Brooke’s supporters took the second row from the front behind the media and Matthew’s group filled in next with more now-WOFF members behind them. Yes, it was awkward.
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Friday: Fenner Hearing in Rutherford County (video)

Before the hearing…
“The door is locked.” The crowd standing upstairs in the Rutherford County courthouse included the defendant, Brooke Covington, Kent Covington, Karel Reynolds with Jayne Caulder- who floated in and out of the area. Yes, add to this Word of Fellowship (WOFF) contingency; Matthew Fenner, a few of his family members, supporters and news media. (I was not ready to throw up the red awkward flag, but it was close.) After a few social charged moments mediated by a few laughs, a county official opened the door and we all cautiously entered the courtroom making sure not to touch or encounter any members of the other side.

Once inside the process of choosing your seat began. Strategy and some personal preference led me to sit three rows from the front on the right side with members of Matthew’s family. Before I landed there, I noticed Karel taking out her pen and pad dividing her page into sections as if she were taking attendance and notes for a report to her teacher. Realizing the note taking would be critical, I also began my efforts.

Already in the bar area was District Attorney Ted Bell with his Assistant, David Norris. Over the next few minutes, court employees filtered in and out as preparations were made for the long waited hearing. The highly anticipated Motion for a Change of Venue would be argued along with possible discussion on several other motions. I noticed the clock moving past 2:00PM and felt concerned until Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers enter with defense attorney David Teddy not far behind. Both looked stern as they took their places. Previously, Teddy had invited Brooke to the defense table so; the show was ready to begin.

Calling out the introduction, All rise…. The bailiff announced the Honorable Judge Gary Gavenus was set to preside- this court will now come to order! Be seated.

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Fenner Case: Next Hearing May 19th- 2:00PM

The next chapter in the Matthew Fenner case is scheduled for Friday, May 19th at 2:00PM. Rccatalyst.com reported on May 9th an additional motion placed on the agenda for the hearing. A Motion of Discovery filed by ADA Garland Byers seeks the preview of all documents, photographs, video recordings which Brooke Covington’s defense attorney David Teddy plans to use during trial. The State also requests to learn if Teddy plans to use insanity, self-defense, voluntary or involuntary intoxication as her defense along with the reuqest for a list of any expert witnesses. A copy of the Motion is found in the article at Rccatalyst.com.

The list of Motions include:
– Defendant’s Motion for Change of Venue,
– Defendant’s Motion for a Bill of Particulars ( opposed by the State in Rccatalyst.com-here)
– State’s Motion for Joinder of Offenses for Trial
– State’s Motion in the Alternative to a venue change s Special Venire (jury pool),
– Motion for Discovery

One more motion by the State filed March 22nd- Motion for Jury View & Testimony During Jury View was discussed in a previous hearing, but not listed in the Rccatlyst.com coverage.

The Motion for Change of Venue will determine the future of this case when and where it will be held. The outcome of the Change of Venire will tell us from which county the jury pool will originate, if different from Rutherford County. The Motion for Jury View if approved will allow the jury to visit Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and have Matthew describe in sworn testimony the events that unfolded the fateful night of January 27, 2013. My friends, we are not surprised that Jane Whaley is fighting this Motion with her own attorney, John W. Gresham. She is putting her foot down, her hand held up high and her shrill cry peeling the paint off the walls in warring prayer to squash any effort to cast her beloved sanctuary as a potential crime scene.
Continue reading Fenner Case: Next Hearing May 19th- 2:00PM

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