Police solve terrifying armed robbery during church service

| April 17, 2010

MADISONVILLE – Folks in Madisonville have been living in fear for months.

It started out as a rash of invasions targeting the homes of illegal immigrants in Madison County and ended with a terrifying robbery during a church service.

Now that the robbers are behind bars, peace has returned to the House of Hope.

It was a day Lanier Stevens will never forget: the day three masked and armed men burst into the House of Hope, forcing the pastor and his congregation to the ground and demanding money.

For many in Madisonville, it was the last straw.

The criminal trio had been committing robberies all over town for weeks, but their crime spree came to a head when they crossed the House of Hope's threshold–and crossed the line for Madisonville residents–robbing fifteen worshippers in the middle of a Thanksgiving service.

Almost immediately, officers acting on tips arrested 18-year-old DeBrandon Betts. Madisonville PD Chief Gary Clendennen, along with Texas Ranger Steve Jeter and Madison County District Attorney Investigator Bobby Adams, finally convinced their prisoner to talk.

"I guess he didn't like being in jail, so he started talking and he gave us the names of the other two involved," said Clendennen.

18-year-old Johnathan Nealey and 19-year-old Dakeldric Washington were arrested and charged with aggravated robbery of the House of Hope.

But for Lanier Stevens, the end of the story was something even the pastor himself couldn't have predicted.

"The one that held the gun to me, two Sundays later I had him in the Bible class, and he even came and talked to me," said Stevens. "If Jesus on the cross can say, 'Father forgive them, they don't know what they do,' that's the only spirit we can have if we're going to be followers of Jesus."

Betts has already been indicted for the House of Hope case, along with two other aggravated robberies.

Nealey's and Washington's cases will go before a Grand Jury in May.



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Category: Church Security

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