Eric Heisig / Houma Courier
HOUMA — A 67-year-old member of a feuding Gibson church is accused of harassing another church member with phone calls and by showing up at her job, as well as resisting officers who arrested her.
The arrest stems from a feud between factions at Beulah Baptist Church, 5544 N. Bayou Black Drive, which is already in court and resulted in rebukes earlier this month directed to both sides by District Court Judge Johnny Walker, who oversees the case.
Sidney Johnson, 5672 N. Bayou Black Drive, Gibson, allegedly called Terrebonne Juvenile Detention Center Director Jason Hutchinson Wednesday, authorities said, demanding that he have an employee, Sheila Garner, fired as a result of the church conflict.
Authorities said Johnson made continued calls to the detention center and showed up at there Friday to confront Garner. Terrebonne officials said as Johnson walked toward the building a deputy stopped her. The deputy tried to issue Johnson a citation for telephone harassment, but Johnson allegedly refused to sign the form and was then placed under arrest.
Johnson was in the hospital Monday, authorities said. Garner could not be reached for comment.
Johnson is one of seven members named in a request for a restraining order filed by the church.
The restraining order sought to bar Johnson, Florence Randle, Henry Randle, Ryan Wheaten, Gill Ann Diggs, Stacie Wheaten Daniels and Joseph Brewton from services and prevent them from “harassing, threatening, following” church members and the pastor or causing a disturbance.
The restraining-order request claimed “serious physical injury or harm will result” if the members named continued to attend services.
The seven members allege the church violated the 1939 charter by neglecting to hold Trustee Board elections for the past six years in lieu of pastoral appointments. They also contend the church's pastor, the Rev. Norman Edmonds Sr., refuses to discuss the church's finances or let members review the books.
A hearing is set for May 12 on the restraining order. The seven named members have voluntarily agreed to stay away from the church until the conflict is resolved.
Johnson, deputies said, also called the Sheriff's Office Friday morning and asked the desk sergeant to have certain church members arrested. Johnson was involved in an altercation at the church March 18, when she allegedly hit a woman in the face.
That day, Johnson was issued a summons for simple battery. Florence Randle, 59, maintains that all the problems within the church have pushed Johnson to the edge.
“They mentally destroyed her,” Randle said. “She needs to put away, she can't take it.”
This is not the first time the members named in the restraining order, have run into trouble. In 2009, Florence Randle was charged with mail fraud for allegedly applying for disaster aid on 14 occasions and receiving $13,550 from the disaster-response organization. She pleaded guilty and is currently on probation.
Stacie Wheaten, 40, was also arrested that year for three counts of mail fraud for applying for aid on 17 occasions with the American Red Cross and receiving $13,185, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans. Wheaten is on probation after pleading guilty.
Florence's husband, Henry Randle, 54, pleaded guilty in 2007 to molestation of a juvenile and sexual battery for allegedly performing sexual acts on a family member. He served one year in prison for the charges, court records show.
Still, those who did wrong have paid for it, Florence Randle said, and they would like to live their lives and worship the way they choose, in the church they have attended for many years.
“I did something wrong, and I got caught,” Florence Randle said. “But we're not allowed to go to our church and ask for any help.”
Carolyn McNabb, the attorney representing the group the church has sought a restraining order against, said even if the seven members are the minority in the congregation, that doesn't make their accusations any less valid.
“This is a separate issue from that,” McNabb said. “Our questions are, were the trustees lawfully elected by the full congregation, are there minutes showing those took place and are the books in order? We're just asking questions about documents at this point.”
Edmonds did not return a call Monday afternoon. The church's attorney, Craig Stewart, refused commen