In Christian theology, a church pastor and congregation are often compared to a shepherd watching over a flock of sheep. But for one local congregation, and one member in particular, the shepherd may have been more interested in fleecing them than watching over them.
Robert S. Daniel, 37, pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church, was arrested on charged of theft and burglary last week. His wife, Renee M. Daniel, was also arrested. Their victim? A 77-year-old female member of their congregation, who they allegedly deceived into giving them more than $30,000.
According to investigators with the Thomaston Police Department, the deception occurred over a 30-day period, with checks allegedly being written to Daniel from the woman. The Daniels had been at the church since late 2012, coming to Thomaston from Arkansas.
In addition to the theft by deception charge, Daniel has also been charged with burglary for allegedly entering the woman’s home and stealing some personal documents and other items from the woman’s residence while she was out of the house. Mrs. Daniel allegedly lured the woman from her home so the theft could occur, and was charged with party to a crime of burglary.
Investigators say this appears to be an isolated incident here, with no other congregation members being deceived, but that the Daniels have traveled around quite a bit, having been in Arkansas, Ohio, and Indiana before coming to Georgia.
Renee Daniel was released on a $10,000 bond and, according to investigators, has already moved back to Arkansas. Robert Daniel remains in the Upson County Jail on a $60,000 bond. The investigation is continuing.