York County

York County church thefts prompt faithful to search for balance of outreach, safety

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comApril 9, 2013 

  • Church safety

    Churches should adopt safety plans for the following situations, authorities say:

    1) Emergency evacuation

    2) Emergency shelter

    3) Medical emergencies

    4) Lost/missing children

    5) Violent confrontations

    More safety tips • Analyze your surroundings. • Be prepared for anything. • Know if you are sending out easy target signals. • Realize that getting involved in the community makes a difference.

Looking for quick cash, Kori Jaynell Wilson, a single mother of three, walked into Harvest Ministries in Rock Hill on Sunday and stole money from the pastor’s wife, deputies say.

She did the same thing four more times, taking $120 cash and two credit cards from teachers, choir members and a couple from Louisiana who parked their car in a back lot, deputies say. One report shows that Wilson charged $99 on a credit card she took from a York woman, using it at businesses in Chester, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Charlotte.

Now, Wilson is behind bars, the left side of her face covered in a gauze wrap that conceals a wound police haven’t yet explained.

“We forgive – there’s no question about that,” said Catherine Adkins, first lady of Harvest Ministries, now out of $60. “But we still have to uphold the law.”

Deputies arrested Wilson in Fort Mill, where she spent $12 at the Red Rocket using one of her victims’ credit cards, according to a York County Sheriff’s report. She was being held Tuesday at the York County Detention Center on a bond of more than $62,000.

Her charges include three counts of forgery, six counts of petty larceny, one count of giving false information, one count of “escape,” one count of violating probation, one count of possession of cocaine and one count of giving false information. Jail information indicates that she may be served with more warrants.

Details of Wilson’s arrest, including the reasons for her resisting arrest, escape and drug charges, remained unclear Tuesday. It’s also unclear whether she received the wound on her face in connection with her arrest, or whether other suspects are involved with the thefts.

It also wasn’t known Tuesday whether she’s the same 24-year-old woman Rock Hill Police accuse of stealing money from members at Inspiration Baptist Church on March 24, or the same woman accused of stealing money from four purses at West End Baptist Church after asking about day care programs last week.

According to police reports released Monday, members at five York County churches, four of them in Rock Hill and one in York, reported that Wilson walked into their buildings during evening services, wandered around and lied about why she was there before she rifled through purses.

Before her arrest, and subsequent mug shot, Kori Wilson was “gorgeous” and “beautiful,” said her sister, Elisica Wilson.

She doesn’t know why Kori Wilson would be accused of stealing from churches, but she suspects she did it to support her children, two boys and a girl, who are now with their grandparents.

“She’s a wonderful parent,” Elisica Wilson said. “She handles stuff very well.”

The Wilson sisters spent much of their childhood working – most of it hard, manual labor, she said. They faced hard times that led to Elisica Wilson making mistakes she says she’ll never make again, such as stealing money and doing drugs.

“God forcefully changed my life” after she suffered from a seizure, she said. She tried to encourage Kori Wilson to change.

“You have to pay for everything you’ve been doing,” she told her.

In February 2008, police arrested and charged Kori Wilson with possession of cocaine. When she was 19, she was accused of stealing more than $11,000 worth of jewelry. She was charged with grand larceny and criminal conspiracy, which were both dismissed at a preliminary hearing in August 2008.

A week after the hearing, she was charged with two counts of forgery. She pleaded guilty to the forgery and the earlier possession of cocaine charge and received three years’ probation.

In November, Kori Wilson was charged with three counts of financial card theft and one count of criminal conspiracy, to which she pleaded guilty, receiving six months of probation.

Gary Adkins, pastor of Harvest Ministries on South Anderson Road, said of the theft: “It’s sad, but it’s just a fact of life.”

A church deacon and head usher spotted Wilson trying to get into the youth pastor’s office, Adkins said. When they asked her what she was doing, she said she was trying to enroll her child in summer camp.

“She was calm, cool and collected,” Adkins said they told him. “She didn’t miss a beat; she knew exactly what to say.”

As Wilson left the church, the deacon followed her and jotted down her license plate number.

Wilson took only cash from Catherine Adkins’ purse, though she looked through other members’ belongings, bypassing cellphones and credit cards.

If Wilson’s actions aren’t punished, Pastor Gary Adkins fears someone else may become a victim. Quoting Romans13 in the Bible, Adkins said God has given Christians the authority to “punish evildoers.”

“It needs to be done for the good of society,” he said, adding that he’s grateful the incident didn’t escalate. “Money can be replaced.”

He plans to encourage his congregation to take more precautions and be more careful, but he won’t close the church’s doors.

“People will steal from churches just as quickly as they would from a parking lot,” York County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris said on Monday.

“You have a duty as a church not only to reach out to the community ... You also have a duty to protect those who attend your church,” said Deputy Kim Morehouse, who recently attended a training seminar on church safety awareness at the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s all well and good to keep our doors open to the public, but we have to protect those who do attend on a regular basis.”

Churches, long thought to be safe havens, aren’t immune from crime.

Morehouse said data shows that 48 “deadly” incidents were reported at churches in 2011 and 75 reported last year. Common crimes at churches include money and copper theft, burglary and arson.

“Each church is going to be different given their surroundings,” Morehouse said, adding that deputies want to work with churches to help create a safety action plan.

Most churches are vigilant about reporting crimes, Morehouse said. But, “they have a duty to act, not just react,” she said.

Jonathan McFadden 803-329-4082

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service