Return of the Black Widow

Death and rumors have followed Sandra Bridewell for decades. But no one could predict the strange turn her life has taken today.

But she had grandiose schemes for her future as an evangelist. "You're going to be my armor-bearer," Bridwell told Benson, referring to someone who carries a preacher's Bible and other belongings, adding she'd once had an armor-bearer named Rosemary. "No, I'm not," Benson retorted. "I'm just trying to help you out until you get on your feet."

What excited Bridwell most, however, was Benson's new company. She had absorbed the "Kingdom Breakthrough" message preached by Long and other black preachers, which emphasized starting Christian businesses to shift wealth from the wicked to God's kingdom. "This is our Kairos moment," Bridwell would crow, referring to a biblical Greek buzzword from the movement about God's timing.

During a meeting of the business team at Benson's home, Bridwell weighed in, saying she'd once had a PR and marketing company in New York. She seemed knowledgeable about real estate, contracts and marketing. She even promised to write a proposal to obtain a government grant. The other members of the team were excited about Bridwell's ideas and wanted her involved, even though she tried to get them to abandon the core of their technology business--preventing identity theft--in favor of other uses of the software.

A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.
A tangled web, clockwise from top left: Sandra married Alan Rehrig in December 1984; Alan in his office on December 6, 1985, the day before he was found dead; this photograph of Sandra and unidentified children was found among her belongings--Sandra claimed she'd ministered to kids in India, smuggled Bibles into China and hid in caves in Pakistan while handing out Christian tracts; a recent photo of Sandra, now 59.

"Three of our team members said, 'If she's white, that's going to help us,'" Benson says. "That's common in black churches and communities." Suddenly, Bridwell was part of the team, going with Benson and her real estate agent to look at commercial buildings. "Camille told him that she was a long-term real estate investor," Benson says. "She was very much interested in strip malls and apartments that she could convert to condos. He was impressed. She knew the lingo."

While walking one such property, which looked like it might appeal to hunters, Bridwell confided to the agent that her father had taught her to shoot. "I'm very good with a gun," she said. Bridwell soon had another agent showing her multimillion-dollar estates.

"If you can buy a house," Benson asked, "why are you living with me?"

Bridwell answered her with scripture.

It slowly became apparent to Benson that Bridwell had simply memorized various scriptural passages and knew little about the Bible or Christian doctrine. Bridwell began calling herself a "Levitical priest," one to whom tithes are due, and praying over her and Benson's offering envelopes in her room before church. Only later did Benson discover that her cash gifts never made it to the altar. During one service, Benson saw a picture of a Lexus GX470 in Bridwell's Bible. God was going to provide her with that car, Bridwell said; it might even be in the parking lot when they left that day.

"That ain't going to happen, Camille," Benson said in exasperation.

By mid-November, Bridwell had commandeered Benson's cell phone and was using her address. She talked Benson into starting a partnership to invest in 55 acres of land north of Atlanta that had once been used as a landfill.

Benson agreed but wanted little to do with the project; the property was in Forsyth County, where a black man recently had been attacked, and Benson refused to go there. "I put together research for her and came up with the name," Benson says, "but I said she could handle it."

While Benson began looking for a part-time job, Bridwell met with the owners and persuaded them to launch a joint venture called Full Earth Resources, selling organic topsoil and engaging in vermiculture--selling earthworm excrement as fertilizer--until the land was ready for development. "She said she had experience in the earthworm business," says Rick Liebe, one owner. "She ran into it in Australia."

The four male owners thought Bridwell was charming and smart. "She handled herself very well," Liebe says. Bridwell proposed to buy half the property for $2.5 million and arrange for financing of the remaining debt and a half-million-dollar credit line. The owners would sign a marketing agreement, giving Bridwell & Associates $25,000 up front and $10,000 a month until the closing of the deal on February 19. The owners agreed.

Though penniless--would she be sleeping on strangers' couches if she had access to $2.5 million?--Bridwell convinced four men, one an economist, that she could swing the deal.

Benson was relieved that some money appeared to be on the way; she was paying all the household bills, getting deeper into debt. She'd put off getting a cheaper condo at Bridwell's insistence. "We can afford this," Bridwell said. "I have money coming in. God told me we are supposed to be here."

Her guest began to grate on Benson's nerves: gooey sweet, hyper-religious and frankly not pleasant to be around. "She never bathed or washed her clothes," Benson says. "She had this odor. I confronted her on that." Bridwell insisted that she did shower, but she continued to reek.

Questions about Bridwell's past began to pile up, too. She had used Benson's name as an emergency contact, not her children's. Though Bridwell claimed her kids had Ivy League educations and were quite successful, she couldn't explain why they didn't give her money.

Bridwell's presumptuous attitude, as if something were owed her, made Benson queasy. She began noticing that certain things--her dead son's Social Security card, her Movado watch, her drivers license--were missing. On November 9, Benson wrote in her journal: "I am very confused and concerned. Lord, please reveal to me what is really going on." She began looking for a way to get Bridwell out of her condo and out of her life.

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5 comments
Northrup Julia
Northrup Julia

I was in jail with camille and she confessed to the murders to another inmate. while in brunswick county.

JESS MASHBURN
JESS MASHBURN

I was completely shocked to find this out about one of my moms next door neighbors. She is still lying about her past and still claiming to have just returned from missionary work( although I have learned that she was recently released from prison in Raleigh, NC). Camille is still trying to use church going people to fund her life. This is crazy, I can't believe I have had the run in chance of meeting this woman and then find this "book" on her disturbed life.

Buffin
Buffin

would like know if there is a end to this story, live in Dallas, I have heard of some of the people in the story.Would make a good movie.

jose
jose

Wow, when is the movie going to come out. She probably can get the rights to her life story and make money while in jail!It's going to make a great movie. I definitely, will watch it.

Kelly Oneill
Kelly Oneill

The Black Widow was arrested in Charlotte, NC on 3/2/07. She is charged with forgery and false pretense.

Arrest info @ http://arrestinquiryweb.co.mec...

She was using the name Sandra Powers and is still acting religious...

 
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