MADISON COUNTY (KFSM)- One of the three pastors from the Church of Wells traveled to Madison County in search of a local woman who had walked away from the religious community in Texas earlier this month.
Dispatch call logs obtained by 5NEWS show Catherine Grove’s parents, Andy and Patty Grove, called the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to ask if a deputy could come to their home just in case members of the church showed up.
Grove had returned to Northwest Arkansas on April 3 after she was reunited with her father at the Angelina County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department, according to Capt. Alton Lenderman.
Authorities found Grove walking on a road near Wells after she called 911 at about 9:30 p.m. on April 2, saying she needed someone to pick her up. A deputy responding to the call took Grove to the Sheriff’s Department in Lufkin, Lenderman said.
The dispatch log shows the Groves called the Madison County Sheriff’s Office on April 4 just before 2 a.m. and spoke with a deputy. They told him their daughter had just returned home and Sean Morris, a Church of Wells elder, and a Navy SEAL left Texas around 5:30 p.m. to come get her. The deputy advised the Groves to take their daughter to a local shelter or hospital out of the county.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office made contact with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department in Texas regarding the Church of Wells, according to the dispatch log. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department advised that “this group does not believe in law enforcement” and “they believe in living like the old days.” The Sheriff’s Department also told Madison County they rarely had any dealings with the religious community except for one time when they were preaching in the streets and then again when Catherine Grove came to authorities of what she told them was her own free will.
A deputy went to the Groves’ address at 3:52 a.m. and found that no one was home, according to the dispatch log. The deputy also tried calling their home phone and both of the Groves’ cell phones, but couldn’t get an answer.
At 5:05 a.m. Sean Morris came to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office asking for a welfare check on Catherine Grove, the dispatch log shows. He told deputies that Catherine had called his wife around 6:55 p.m. on April 3 saying that she wanted them to come get her because her parents wouldn’t let her leave. Morris also said the Groves blocked his cell phone so he couldn’t call Catherine back.
Morris told deputies he wanted the welfare check to see if Catherine wants do go with him because he’s afraid if he goes to the Groves’ home her father may shoot him, according to the dispatch log. The Sheriff’s Office told Morris that they would send a deputy to check on Catherine. The dispatch log also identifies the vehicle Morris was driving and its license plate number.
The dispatch log shows that at 7:38 a.m. a deputy secured the Groves’ residence. Another deputy reports at 8:26 that the vehicle Morris was driving was idling in the parking lot of an old Walmart and there appears to be a man sleeping inside it.
At 9:38 a.m. Morris and his wife were at the Sheriff’s Office where a sergeant told them to stay off the Groves’ property or they will be trespassing, according to the dispatch log. When the Morrises started making threats, the sergeant asked them to leave, which they did shortly afterwards.
Patty Grove called a deputy at 10:20 a.m. to tell him that Catherine was safe and being checked into a facility, the dispatch log states. Another deputy followed the vehicle Morris was driving to Sonora. Since the vehicle continued going westbound from there the deputy returned to Madison County.
To see the Madison County Sheriff’s Office dispatch log, click here.
In a video testimony made by the Church of Wells and posted on YouTube on April 16, Catherine Grove states that she returned to the church on April 8. She also states her family took away the house phone and her cell phone while she was home, so she couldn’t contact members of the church. Grove says her parents took her to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis where doctors assessed her mental health. She goes on to say that her parents wanted to get legal guardianship over her, but the doctors’ diagnosis ruled against it.
In the video, Grove says she called the Church of Wells when the doctors allowed her to and members of the church came to St. Louis to take her back to Texas.
The full video is included below.
Morris contacted 5NEWS on April 23 after this article was published and provided a letter he had emailed to Madison County Sheriff Phillip Morgan following his trip to Northwest Arkansas. The email with an attached letter was sent on April 10 and outlines the “unlawful and unjust behavior” Morris and his wife experienced at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
In the letter, Morris writes that Catherine Grove called his wife on April 3 at 6:55 p.m. and the Morrises agreed to pick her up as soon as they could. Morris also describes the conversation Grove had with his wife. She told Preethi Morris that “she was terrified that her parents would never allow her to leave and come back to [the Church of Wells]” and “indicated that one time she physically tried to leave and they prevented her in some frightful manner.”
According to the letter, Grove gave Preethi Morris the address to her parents’ home in Madison County.
The Morrises went directly to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office instead of the Groves’ home “lest Andy [Grove] take an occasion to shoot me or harm me for coming on his property,” the letter states. When Morris asked the personnel at the window to do a welfare check on Grove he was told deputies would check on her and then contact him via phone. Morris and his wife decided to get some sleep. They went back to the Sheriff’s Office four hours later since they had not received a call about the welfare check they requested.
In the letter, Morris writes that Sergeant Russell Alberts then came to tell him that “if I stepped foot on Andy’s property I would be arrested for trespassing, and if I stayed in town looking for Catherine, tried to contact Catherine, and anything of that sort, I would be guilty of liable of stalking.”
Morris writes that Alberts “was of an angry and sharp tone and behavior almost the entire time” and told him Morris and his church destroyed Catherine’s life. Alberts also said Morris had threatened the Groves lives and safety and they were terrified, the letter states. Morris denies those allegations.
According to the letter, Alberts accused Morris and his wife of threatening him when Preethi Morris told the sergeant “the Lord is going to hold you accountable.” Alberts then told the couple to leave.
To read Morris’ full letter, click here.
A former Church of Wells member also contacted 5NEWS after the church released Grove’s video testimony.
Christine Major said she was part of the Church of Wells from Nov. 2010 until July 2011 before she decided to leave the community.
“Though I agree with much of what they stand on in the church regarding the Christian faith,” Major said. “I have to say that there is a dangerous sphere of control that is in the leaders of this church.”
Major said the church elders tried to dictate her conscience and she didn’t want to be subjected to that.
“Catherine [Grove] is not in a good place,” Major said. “And I care for her and I care for everybody in the situation.”
The full video Major sent to 5NEWS is included below.