As sex-crime pastors go, Terry Hornbuckle is virtually in a class by himself. He was briefly back in the news because he was denied parole the other day, after having served just seven years of his 15-year prison sentence.
We’ll refer to him as the Rev. Hornswoggle from here on out. That name just seems to fits better. See if you agree.
The parole request for the once prominent minister, who built a large nondenominational church in Arlington and mingled with celebrities, has been rejected. Hornswoggle, 51, founder of Agape Christian Fellowship, remains in prison serving his 15-year sentence for sexually assaulting three women, two of whom were members of his church. Testimony from his 2006 trial included details about how Hornbuckle drugged some of the women and smoked methamphetamine.
Hornswoggle’s trial, and the events that led him there, were memorable for all kinds of colorful details. The reverend, who asked people to address him as “bishop,” preached the “prosperity gospel.” He and his wife drove Mercedeses and Cadillac Escalades; they also lived in expensive homes and wore tailored clothes.
This lavish lifestyle had to be financed by his flock, so from the pulpit, week after week, Hornswoggle implored his 2,500 congregants to give their all to the church, which meant most especially the contents of their bank accounts. He shamed members in public, in front of everyone, if they didn’t tithe at least 10 percent of their incomes to his church.
One ex-fan said he vividly remembered
scrounging for change in his 400-square-foot apartment in north Arlington, terrified that something calamitous would happen to him if he didn’t come up with his tithe every week. “If I didn’t have that whole tithe,” he said, “either I was going to get struck down, or if I got too close to [the bishop] he would get killed.”
At the time of Hornswoggle’s trial for sexual assault, the Dallas Observer, which referred to him in one headline as “Reverend Freak,” reported myriad odd and embarrassing stories about him (embarrassing for normal people — it never became clear whether the good bishop himself was capable of such an emotion). For instance:
One time, Hornswoggle preached about bathing his adolescent daughter. “You men need to bathe your daughters,” he exhorted his members. “Clean ’em up good.”
Or how about this one:
One married church member, after a sexual encounter with Hornswoggle, began to complain of severe abdominal pain. A trip to the doctor revealed the problem: A metal cock ring — a sexual device used to prolong an erection — had been rammed deep into her abdominal cavity.
Another conquest was involuntary on the part of the bishop’s partner (in fact, he sexually assaulted a string of women, prosecutors said, although in the end he was convicted of raping only three). The encounter we’re referencing here involved a 17-year-old woman name Jocelyn, who’d drawn the bishop’s attention in part because a friend had told him that she might be gay. To get her back on God’s intended path, he gave her a muscle relaxant and liquor; she passed out, and then drifted in and out of consciousness as the Rev. Hornswoggle had his way with her.
He was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, drawing 15, 14, and 10 years in prison. The judge decided that Hornswoggle would be allowed to serve those sentences concurrently. There’s divine mercy for you.
[image via the Star Telegram]