A former congregant is accused of breaking into the home of a North Carolina cult leader while carrying a gun, amid rumors that the secretive sect is spreading COVID-19.
Stephen Cordes, 23, was found Sunday in a closet at the home of Brooke Covington, one of the leaders of the Word of Faith Fellowship in Rutherford County. Cordes, who once lived in the home, was allegedly carrying a Glock pistol and had a shotgun in the trunk of his rental car.
Cordes, whose family members still attend the church, claims he was high on drugs and doesn’t know why he ended up in Covington’s home. In addition to breaking and entering to terrorize or injure, he faces charges of marijuana and methamphetamine possession.
The Charlotte Observer reports: The break-in follows weeks of heightened tensions over whether the highly secretive Word of Faith Fellowship is hiding an outbreak of COVID-19, which critics say endangers this Foothills county of 67,000 residents, 70 miles west of Charlotte. On Monday, Word of Faith’s attorney told the Observer that three church members who had the coronavirus illness have died and that the church does not know how many other members may be infected. On a Facebook page that appears to belong to the alleged gunman — identified by Sheriff Chris Francis as Stephen Cordes of Raleigh — Cordes expressed fears this month that loved ones who still belong to the church might be exposed to COVID-19. “If anything happens to my family that is still in there so help me … ,” he wrote in an April 8 post on Facebook.
More from the Associated Press: Covington is currently facing charges of kidnapping and assault related to a 2013 attack in which a young, gay man says he was beaten during a blasting session to expel his “homosexual demons.” Her husband, Kent Covington, is currently in federal prison related to an unemployment fraud scheme at businesses owned by church leaders. Various current and former church members have lived communally in the home over the years. Cordes has described beatings by church members, being sexually assaulted and being separated from his parents during his childhood. His sister, Danielle Cordes, said her brother is not dangerous, but a traumatized and troubled young man, and they are seeking help for him.