Georgia pastor and wife who locked up disabled people in basement 'routinely fed poor'

All the eight people who were imprisoned by the couple were suffering from a mental or physical disability


                            Georgia pastor and wife who locked up disabled people in basement 'routinely fed poor'
Pastor Curtis Keith Bankston, 55 (L), and his wife Sophia Simm-Bankston, 56 (R), ran a shelter for the disabled (Spalding County Sherrif's Office)
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GRIFFIN, GEORGIA: People in the local church community have claimed that a Georgia pastor and his wife who allegedly imprisoned eight disabled people in their basement regularly fed the poor and also ran a shelter for disabled patients. The duo has been accused of "imprisoning people against their will" after eight disabled people were found in the basement of their home, behind a deadbolted door. Medics found the imprisoned people after they climbed through the window to assist a person who had suffered a seizure. 

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Pastor Curtis Keith Bankston, 55, and his wife Sophia Simm-Bankston, 56, of Griffin, were arrested for false imprisonment. All the eight people who were imprisoned by the couple were suffering from a mental or physical disability. They were between the ages of 25 and 65.

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Curtis has claimed that they were not holding anybody in the basement against their will and that all individuals "were free to come and go as they please." The disabled people were kept in the basement of One Step of Faith 2nd Chance — their unlicensed group home. According to authorities, "The 'caretakers' have been leasing this property for approximately 14 months, using the basement as a personal care home for the individuals, which essentially imprisoned them against their will."

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Police in Griffin reported that a deadbolt was found on the basement door that was used to lock the patients at times. After authorities arrived at the Valley Road residence to tend to a patient who suffered a seizure, they had to climb through a window to get access to the patient. EMS and the Fire Department informed police that they found the disabled people locked up inside.

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Police said that the couple controlled the patients' "finances, medications, and public benefits" and that at times they were "denied their medications" and "medical care." Hours after his wife was arrested last week, Curtis held a press conference at his home and denied the allegations. His lawyer Dexter Wimbish said, "At no time was anybody held against their will. There was no kidnapping."

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He added, "That is poor judgment, it is unfortunate, it is likely a violation of a local ordinance, but it is not kidnapping, and it's not false imprisonment. And that's what the narrative is." It is not clear when Curtis was released from jail after he was arrested on January 13. Wimbish claimed that the patients were given meals thrice a day. 

Curtis' nonprofit, which had been registered in August 2020, reportedly failed to be licensed with local ordinance. Police said that the residents have been moved to proper housing and that five of them are now 'wards of the State'. Wimbish claimed that a "plea" is not needed as they "have not done anything wrong". "We're going to fight it with everything that we have," he said. "There is no intention to have a plea. They have not done anything wrong. Their community is standing behind them. Their family's standing behind them."

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