A simple timeline of the State of N.C. versus WoFF members’ case
January 27, 2013 Matthew Fenner alleges he was held against his will while being assaulted during a deliverance session of blasting or loud prayer in the sanctuary of Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF.)
October 2014 – Caught in an endless runaround for many months to get a report taken by the sheriff’s office or a magistrate to file charges (magistrates cannot file felony charges), Matthew Fenner along with his grandfather Bobby Rape attempted to make an appointment with then District Attorney Brad Greenway. When Greenway refused on several occasions, Matthew and his grandfather along with a few friends went to Greenway’s office anyway to give it one more try. After a short wait, Greenway arrived and agreed to bring Matthew’s story before the grand jury as a presentment.
Outside, a discussion about presentment as not being the ideal way to proceed led to a walk across the street in one last attempt to file a report with the Sheriff. Deputy Wayne Guffey took Fenner’s statement. Leaks went out about the presentment and witnesses to be called.
Nov. 2014 — The election brought defeat for Brad Greenway as the district attorney (D.A.) Former assistant district attorney Ted Bell was elected and would assume office in January 2017. Sheriff Chris Francis was reelected.
Dec. 9, 2014 — The Grand Jury was convened by outgoing D.A. Greenway in a special session to hear the presentment of Matthew Fenner’s experiences in the Word of Faith Fellowship sanctuary. Five individuals were indicted for assault and second degree kidnapping. One of the five defendants, Sarah Covington Anderson, also faced a charge of assault by strangulation.
- Brooke Covington, leader in the WoFF ministry; she had charge (church supervision) over Sarah Anderson
- Justin “Covington,” Brooke & Kent Covington were guardians
- Sarah “Covington” Anderson, Brooke & Kent Covington were guardians;she had charge of Matthew Fenner according to the WoFF hierarchy
- Robert Louis Walker, Jr. and
- Adam Bartley, prior drug charges and convicted criminal.
Muse came to Rutherford County in June 2000 to live with sister Suzanne Cooper and her family who were WOFF members. In the child custody case, Muse and others told Judge Pool about the constant control WoFF had over their lives. The church and the Covingtons, through their attorney Tom Hix, argued that they reach out to people in trouble, like Muse, and most people need and want the disciplined environment the church provides. Muse wanted her children out of the WOFF no matter how it was done.
DSS initially brought the case solely against Muse, saying that Muse abused the children while a WOFF member. Muse testified that she, at times, was forced to discipline her children in ways she did not believe were appropriate.
In a subsequent legal proceeding, Hix successfully got the Covingtons added as a party to the case.
The DSS case formally began in August 2002. Judge Pool ruled, without a trial, that the children had been abused. He based that ruling on Muse’s own admission that she had abused the children and on the original DSS petition which pointed to several specific practices of the church as abusive.
The Covingtons — supported by two of Muse’s sisters who belong to the church — sought permanent custody of the children, but Tuesday’s ruling removed any legal claims the couple had to the children. However, the four continued to live at the Covington residence.
The foreman of the Grand Jury, however, asked to see the judge regarding improper questions being asked of the witness Matthew Fenner. The juror was allegedly a member of the Word of Faith Fellowship.
Even though the activities of the Grand Jury are not made public, the defense counsel of WoFF leadership had learned of the possible indictment at the special called meeting of the Grand Jury and presented their own witnesses including Matthew Fenner’s mother, Linda, who testified against him.
Once indicted, all five defendants’ bail was made with WoFF church-owned properties.
January 2015, five individuals were re-indicted by District Attorney Ted Bell who made an agreement with the defense to keep the bonds the same. The Grand Jury returned clean true bills to indict the five WoFF members.
February 2015 — WoFF attorneys Josh Farmer and Mark Morris of the then Tomblin, Farmer and Morris, P.L.L.C. law firm representing all five defendants filed a motion for a change of venue. That motion was scheduled to be heard Sept. 21, 2015 with Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. on the Superior Court bench.
March 2015 — Assistant District Attorney Garland F. Byers, Jr. was assigned to prosecute the case. Byers with a law enforcement, investigator, and criminal case prosecutor background has experience with former related WoFF cases.
April 2, 2015 — All five defendants represented by Farmer and Morris made their first appearances in front of Judge Tommy Davis during an administrative court session.
April 6, 2015 – With the negative publicity surrounding the case and charges of the WoFF members, theBrevard (FL) Jewish Community and Friends pulled support from an exhibition of WoFF’s Holocaust Museum.
April 29, 2015 — Jerry Cooper, former member of WoFF, was arrested after mediation with 2 WoFF members, Sarah Anderson and Louis Walker, Jr., who had filed slander charges on a comment Cooper had made on Facebook. Josh Farmer stood in the hallway as Cooper was arrested on a cyberstalking warrant based on WoFF pastor Jane Whaley’s statements.
Cooper, a Christian minister/missionary based in Africa, made bail and was released.
May 29, 2015 — Jerry (Butcher) Cooper, represented by Paul Dietz, found not guilty in district court after testimony by Whaley and him sparring about Christian verses. ADA Roger McCalman prosecuted the case.
July 31, 2015 — The State of North Carolina subpoenaed Ray Farmer, a leader in the church and associated with their security team, for video, DVD, Videotapes from January 26,27, and 28 of 2013.
Also requested were audio, video, DVD or CDs from July 1 to july 31, 2015 and all files, audio, video, paper, photographs or any other media with witness Richard Matthew Fenner III involved
August 3, 2015 — Fenner was subpoenaed as a witness in the Anderson/Walker slander case. A motion to quash the Fenner suboena was heard by Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. Represented by attorney Paul Dietz, the motion to quash was granted, as Dietz stately the request was overly broad. The judge also ordered an in-camera review of the Farmer evidence that was due to be presented on August 17, 2015.
Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Garland Byers, Jr. made the State’s motion to disqualify the law firm of Tomblin, Farmer, and Morris, P.L.OL.C. and any of its associates from representing any of the five defendants then members of WoFF. Byers cited conflicts of interest between the defendants and the inability for fairness in the trial if they were all represented by WoFF attorney Josh Farmer or his firm.
Defendant Adam Bartley hired Rob Denton to represent him. Bartley has a prior criminal record.
August 6, 2015 — Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. ruled in favor of the State’s motion to disqualify the firm and associates of Tomblin, Farmer, and Morris P.L.L.C. as the defendants’ co-attorneys.
August 17, 2015 — Deadline for WoFF member Ray Farmer to turn over all subpoenaed evidence.
August 20, 2015 – Defendant Adam Christopher Bartley “rejected any plea offer as I did nothing wrong.” with a handwritten notation on the letter.
A notice of Appeal was received to divest Judge Pope’s order to disqualify the law firm of Tomblin, Farmer and Morris, P.L.L.C., attorneys Mark Morris, Joshua Farmer, Andrea Farmer and their associates.
Attorney Matthew D. Cabe from the Morganton law firm of Bob A. Ledford made the first appearance for his client Robert Louis Walker, Jr.
Attorney Beeker from Henderson along with Joshua Farmer and Mark Morris filed a motion on behalf of Covington, Covington, and Anderson for the Motion to Reconsider the Order Disqualifying Counsel.
August 24, 2015 — State files motions.
August 27, 2015 — ADA Byers calls Sarah Anderson, Brooke Covington, and Justin Covington into a court hearing to determine state of counsel before Superior Court Marvin Pope, Jr.
Sept. 3, 2015 — Defense’s Motion for Change of Venue and Prosecution’s motion for consideration of a change of Venire are postponed. ADA Byers files another motion of Disqualification for Angela Beeker who is representing three of the defendants.
Sept. 14, 2015 — Defense attorney on record Beeker withdraws from cases.
Sept. 20, 2015 — N.C. Court of appeals issues a stay for the Fenner/WoFF defendants
Sept. 23, 2015 — Defense attorney Rob Denton accuses ADA Byers of tomfoolery and threatens a civil suit against the D.A.’s office.
Oct. 5, 2015 — N.C. Court of Appeals decides to hear the appeal for the law firm disqualification.
Dec. 17, 2015 — WoFF slander case against Jerry Cooper request depositions from Matthew Fenner and Danielle Cordes. Cordes is a key witness in the Fenner/Covington case.
Dec. 21, 2015 — Judge J. Thomas Davis decreed opined that there was no genuine issue of material fact in the Jerry Cooper slander case and issued a summary judgement for dismissal with prejudice.
Dec., 2015 — Judge Pope sent Ray Farmer’s CD evidence in the Fenner case to RC Clerk of Court. WoFF website is in maintenance mode for an extended online absence.
January, 2016 — Adam Bartley faces new charges unrelated to case.
January 27, 2016 — Defense attorney Josh Farmer files all documents in the review of Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. ‘s order of disqualification of his firm representing all of the defendants.
February, 2016 – Sarah Covington Anderson leaves the WoFF. She also leaves her husband, Nick Anderson.
February 29, 2016 — Defense attorney Josh Farmer files all documents in the review of Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. ‘s order of disqualification of his firm representing all of the defendants.
March 4, 2016 — Sarah Covington Anderson makes a first appearance with her new counsel of Jeff and Ben Cooper.
March 10, 2016 — Anderson’s attorneys Jeff and Ben Cooper withdraw Anderson from the N.C. Appeal to reconsider the law firm of now Farmer and Morris for joint representation.
March 17, 2016 — Attorneys Farmer and Morris withdraw codefendants Brooke and Justin Covington from the N.C. Appeal of Disqualification.
District Court Judge Laura Powell hears the temporary visitation hearing for the Andersons’ young child. Sarah Anderson was represented by Jack Stewart of the Buncombe County Bar and Nick Anderson by Leslie Farfour of the the Cleveland County Bar. Powell instructs the Andersons that the child is NOT to be subjected to loud screaming or yelling.
Farmer and Morris withdraw the N.C. Appeals case for joint representation of the Covingtons.
March 24, 2016 — ADA Garland Byers, Jr. formally withdraws plea offer for Adam Bartley.
April 4, 2016 — ADA Garland Byers, Jr. requests the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), Resident Superior Court Judge Thomas Davis, and Superior Court Judge Marvin Pope, Jr. that Pope be assigned to all of the Fenner/WoFF minister Covington cases. Byers states that it would take a new judge some time to “get up to speed” with all of the complications of the case.
The Court of Appeals case has been withdrawn by the defense attorneys and the District Attorney’s office is seeking a lifting of the ordered stay in the proceedings.
April 16, 2016 — Hearing set for case on June 6, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Marvin Pope, Jr.
April 20, 2016 – Judge Pope releases Angela Becker as defense counsel at her request.
June 6, 2016 – Justin Covington and Brooke Covington are to seek new counsel. Justin Covington applied for a public defender. Hearing scheduled for June 29, 2016.
June 6, 2016 – Adam Bartley arrested on outstanding arrest warrant after first appearance.
June 29, 2016 – WoFF member Ray Farmer revokes bond on Sarah Anderson. She is arrested and makes bond again.
July 8, 2016 – Status conference called for Fenner/WoFF members case.
- Brooke Covington, represented by David Teddy
- Justin “Covington,” represented by Krinn Evans
- Sarah “Covington” Anderson, represented by Ben Cooper
- Robert Louis Walker, Jr. represented by Matthew Cabe
- Adam Bartley, represented by Rob Denton
July 29, 2016 – Matthew Fenner challenges testifying in WoFF child visitation hearing
August 28, 2016 – Request for Fenner’s deposition in custody case withdrawn
November 4, 2016 – Case hearing scheduled for Dec.8
December 1, 2016 – Trial conference moves forward.
February, 28, 2017 – Associated Press releases Broken Faith.
“Neither party subject the child or allow anyone to subject the child to abuse including yelling, shaking, striking in any other form of physical abuse.”
March 6, 2017 — AP 2nd release
June 6, 2017 — The trial of the State of North Carolina versus WoFF minister Brooke Covington ended in a mistrial. Disobeying the Judge’s orders, the jury foreman introducing unauthorized documents into the jury room therefore destroying the integrity of the jury. Judge Gary Gavenus placed a gag order on anyone associated with the case including the jury, court officials, attorneys representing any of the five defendants and the 50+ people listed on the “State and Defendant Witness List.”
June 21, 2017– J. Buchanan, a media attorney from Charlotte, on behalf of the Associated Press and Charlotte Observer, filed a motion to lift the gag order seeking access to the jurors and those associated with the case.
June 26, 2017– The Associated Press releases article and recordings of Matthew Fenner’s attempts to have a case made against WoFF. Secretly recorded conversations with Rutherford County Sheriff Chris Francis and Jill Rose of the U.S. Attorney’s office were made public. Former District Attorney Brad Greenway is quoted in the article.
June 30, 2017 —Defense Attorney David Teddy files Amended Motion to know what recordings Matthew Fenner may have now or any made pertaining to the events which led to Brooke’s indictment. The Motion specifically lists the AP article as cause for granting the Motion.
July 1, 2017- Brooke Covington’s defense attorney David Teddy filed motion on June 30, 2017 for Matthew Fenner to produce the recordings and the devices which made the recordings. Hearing set for July 17, 2017.
July 2, 2017– Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers filed a motion for a lift of the gag order over the jurors in order to allow investigators to interview jurors about the unauthorized documents introduced by jury foreman, Perry Shade. The Associated Press also filed a motion to lift the gag order.
July 3, 2107– Amended Motion by Teddy
July 17, 2017 — The date for the next hearing on the removal of the gag order and the Motion for Matthew to produce any recordings is July 17, 2017 starting at 9:30 a.m. The Honorable Judge Marvin Jesse Caldwell is scheduled to hear the motions.
July 11, 2017 – Judge Caldwell declines to hear motions on July 17, 2017.
July 12, 2017 — Judge Pope agrees to hear motions in the Adam Bartley trial on July 28, 2017 in Asheville, Buncombe County. Judge Gary Gavenus has asked to have the Covington case motions regarding the gag order sent to him. He will issue an order on each of them.
July, 2017 – Hearing canceled.
August 3, 2017 — Judge Gary Gavenus made this deadline for all motions and documents regarding the gag order to be sent to him. He will rule on whether to revise or cancel the gag order.
September 11, 2017 – Hearing called before Judge Pope for all motions regarding the Fenner Case. All defendants with the exception of Sarah Anderson were in court. Rob Denton was released as counsel for Adam Bartley and Brian Oglesby assigned. Pope wants the change of venue to be held with all parties on Sept. 14, 2017.
Dec. 31, 2017 — ADA Garland F. Byers, Jr. resigns as ADA.