Pastor and his wife kept 8 disabled adults in a locked basement while controlling their benefits: Police – Crime Online
A Georgia pastor and his wife have been arrested after police allegedly found eight people with various intellectual and physical disabilities being held in a basement against their will.
On January 13, EMS workers and Griffin firefighters responded to the home of Curtis and Sophia Bankston amid reports of an epileptic seizure. A firefighter had to enter through a window to tend to the resident as they were in a locked basement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Police said the residents were between the ages of 25 and 65 and had various disabilities. They said those who were wards of the state had been moved to other care homes in light of last week’s discovery.
The Bankstons allegedly operated a group home without a license, which required them to control their residents’ finances, benefits and medications. At times, the couple refused medication and medical care, according to WAGA.
Curtis Bankston, 55, who claimed to be a pastor, allegedly ran the illegal group home under his church, called One Step of Faith 2nd Chance.
Citing state records, the Journal-Constitution reported that Curtis Bankston registered the 2nd Chance program with the state in August 2020, but did not license it according to local laws. The 2nd Chance program would have been registered as a non-profit organization that provides food, housing and meals. His wife was on the program’s list of secretaries, according to the outlet.
Curtis Bankston’s attorney, Dexter Wimbish, told reporters Thursday that the basement was closed at 8 p.m. to prevent residents with developmental disabilities from wandering off. A resident who has a key to unlock the basement was not there when paramedics responded to the home last week, the Journal-Constitution reported.
Wimbish described the matter as a “zoning issue that has been criminalized.”
“There is no fraud here. It is simply a Christian following his call to help those in need. We cannot sit idly by and allow the ministry to be attacked,” also said the lawyer.
Curtis Bankston was arrested for forcible confinement the same day emergency crews responded to his home regarding the reported medical emergency. Sophia Bankston, 56, was arrested Thursday on the same charges.
According to WAGA, authorities said the couple could face additional charges in the future.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the “Crime Stories with Nancy Grace” podcast. Listen to the latest episode:
Join Nancy Grace for her new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most: your children.
[Featured image: Curtis Bankston/Spalding County Sheriff’s Office; Sophia Bankston/Griffin Police Department]