On Saturday, Mark Lewis, a suspect in a bizarre case involving stalking, a possible murder conspiracy, and arson, was released on bail of half a million dollars. On Sunday, he was back in the pulpit, giving moral pointers to his unfazed congregants.
Lewis is the pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church in Vacaville, California. The church had taken a number of homeless people under its wing, and police believe that he asked three of them to firebomb the home of his ex-girlfriend, Sarah Nottingham.
Early last Thursday morning, the trio, sans Lewis, allegedly went to the residence, in which three adults and three children were asleep, and threw a molotov cocktail through a bedroom window. The occupants were able to extinguish the fire before it got out of control.
Cops pulled over a suspicious-seeming car shortly after the attack.
Anthony Newbolt, 33, of Sacramento, Richerd Wright, 28, of Sacramento, and Kristen Broyles, 30, of Citrus Heights, were in the vehicle. Police said they obtained information and evidence implicating all three in the fire bombing on Chateau Circle.
Police said Newbolt and Broyles, both of whom had unrelated outstanding arrest warrants, told investigators that they had been staying at the Fellowship Baptist Church on Farrell Road in Vacaville because they are homeless. Police said the victim in the arson case has an active restraining order against the pastor of the church, Mark Lewis.
Nottingham broke up with Lewis last year.
Lewis, 39, was also named as a suspect in four separate incidents of harassment and vandalism against the arson victim since Christmas, police said.
Police said they seized evidence during the search, including a handgun and suspected methamphetamine. Detectives said they also found evidence implicating Lewis as a co-conspirator in the Thursday morning arson case.
So we have (1) a clear link between the alleged firebombers and the church led by pastor Lewis; (2) confirmation that they were in Lewis’ debt for letting them stay at the church; (3) police and victim allegations that Lewis was behind a campaign of stalking and harassment against Nottingham (which included damage to her car and a separate fire set to shrubbery on her property); (4) the fact that a terrified Nottingham had been granted a restraining order against Lewis; and (5) the police statement that as-yet unspecified physical evidence ties Lewis to the arson and attempted murder.
Why is Lewis even allowed back out on the streets?
His former lover has misgivings too, to put it mildly.
“That’s the sickest part about it, is that this man claims to be a man of God,” said ex-girlfriend Sarah Nottingham.
She says, ever since their breakup last year, Lewis has been trying to hurt her and her family. Nottingham says she has an active restraining order against the pastor for vandalizing her car and setting fire to her bushes.
“I’m living in a nightmare. My kids are so scared. My son knows that this is his previous pastor that is threatening his mommy and his family,” said Nottingham.
In any normal business or organization, accusations such as the ones against Lewis would result in the suspect not showing up at work for a while, possibly until a trial conclusively establishes his guilt or innocence.
But Lewis, professing he didn’t do anything wrong (and we must remember that he is innocent until proven guilty), went right back to preaching, delivering his usual sermon on Sunday morning. It may have been about as memorable as the sermon before that:
Parishioners say the restraining order was served to Lewis last Sunday in the middle of a service, but say they don’t believe the charges and are standing by him.
The flock loves the pastor, that much is clear. And why not? I mean:
Pastor Mark[‘s] … love and excitement for Christ is contagious. Pastor not only preaches and teaches what God wants, but he lives it. … If you spend a few minutes talking to him, you’ll quickly realize that he is a man after God’s own heart.
I guess we’ll soon see about that.