Seductress of the Saints

Inside the mind--and suitcase--of Sandra Bridewell, religious charlatan

Their annulment became final in May 2001. Dandridge was forced to sell his house to pay off the debts. He now lives in a Western state, but asks that his location not be disclosed.

"She pretty much cleaned me out," he says. "She's one scary lady."


··· ITEM: Folded paper flier in Malayalam, the language of the South Indian state of Kerala, inviting people to a Marilyn Hickey crusade. In purple ink, Bridewell's handwriting: "Original of flyer for Crusade & Open Air Meeting, Kottoyam, May 2001."
A snapshot of Sandra Camille Bridewell on the California coast, taken from a roll of film labeled "Point Reyes, CA." At bottom, a sample of her notes.
A snapshot of Sandra Camille Bridewell on the California coast, taken from a roll of film labeled "Point Reyes, CA." At bottom, a sample of her notes.
A glimpse of Bridewell's "Promised Land Farms," a $3.2 
million property in Marin County where she wanted to 
establish her "ministry." Bottom: a letter she forged in an 
attempt to close on the purchase.
A glimpse of Bridewell's "Promised Land Farms," a $3.2 million property in Marin County where she wanted to establish her "ministry." Bottom: a letter she forged in an attempt to close on the purchase.

·· ·ITEM: Photocopy of a letter, dated August 6, 2001, to Judge Harold Barnes, Sedalia, Missouri:

Dear Judge Barnes,

One of my hearts' desires is to find my birth mother, Sarah Helen (or Helene) Gentleman, who gave me up for adoption when I was born April 5, 1944...

My adoptive parents, Arthur and Camille Powers are both deceased. My adoptive mother, Camille, was killed in a car wreck in January of 1944. My daddy, Arthur Powers, died of cancer in 1970...I have had no family and have missed that very much.

From time to time through the years I have searched for my mother to no avail...

How wonderful it would be to know of my natural mother, about her life & well-being. Also, I have never known anything about my father and I would very much like to learn about him. If my mother would choose to meet me and become acquainted it would be a great blessing to me. To know my father's identity & his whereabouts is important also, though if she chose not to divulge that I would understand. Also, if I have any siblings, to learn of them would be a joy.

Please help me find my mother and family members, Judge Barnes.

Gratefully Yours,

Sandra Camille Powers

In 2001, Bridewell traveled to Sedalia, Missouri, where she was born and adopted. In the library she found a newspaper clipping from April 6, 1947. The front-page photo shows an adorable girl named Sandra Powers celebrating her third birthday at the local country club. It was an elaborate party, complete with live bunnies and an Easter parade, thrown by her father, Arthur Powers, owner and manager of the local Dr Pepper Bottling Co.

Another newspaper clipping, dated three months earlier--January 23, 1947--reports the death of her adoptive mother Camille, killed in an auto accident in Dallas. The lavish party suggests a grieving father trying to make it all better for his little princess, to the extent of getting it covered by the Sedalia Democrat.

Using the name Powers, Bridewell hired an attorney to attempt to open her adoption records. Bridewell's heart-wrenching letter to the contrary, she still has family--her stepmother and stepbrother live in Garland. (The attorney did not return phone calls, and there is no evidence the records were unsealed.)

Was she really searching for her roots, trying to find her true family? Or was Bridewell looking for someone else to manipulate?

In a letter to the same judge dated February 4, 2003, Bridewell petitions the judge to issue an order furnishing her with a certified copy of her original birth record, with her natural mother's name, as well as the contents of her adoption file.

With a new birth certificate, Bridewell could take yet another name and a new identity. She could put Dallas behind her forever.


·· ·ITEM: Magazine photo of a gold Lexus SUV, slipped into the pages of a Bible.

·· ·ITEM: Notebook of graph paper, sheet dated September 15, 2002:

"I'm no longer a slave to sin. I'm fully delivered from the power of sin over my life. Meditation in God's Word will form explosives, it rearranges things. $ is looking for me NOW--$10 billion looking for me NOW. Meditate on 'money cometh.' My seed goeth while I'm expecting 'money to cometh.'"

In June 2003, Bridewell attended a conference in Columbus, Ohio, at the World Harvest Church, headlined by prosperity preacher Rod Parsley. On a "Festival of Harvest" pledge card, Bridewell wrote out her requests for God: "new homes & lands, new SUVs & Lexus 4 door (or better), miracle financial blessing, wealth & riches in my house, my family reconciled, redeemed & reunited in [heart], our family ministry established & supernaturally launched & exploded. My new husband you have chosen for me for my Boaz."

Her "faith pledge": $7,000.

Where was she getting the money? Donations from people who believed she was a missionary? In one notebook, Bridewell had drawn up a pledge card, front and back, for her own ministry. She also listed all the positions she'd need to fill, including a personal assistant (male), medical missions director, water wells project coordinator, prayer leader, pilots, personal chef, masseuse, hair stylist and esthetician.

Bridewell's determination to sow seed led to her adoptive mother's grave at Laurel Land in Dallas. After catching Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter's House on TV, Bridewell signed papers on February 13, 2002, transferring ownership of two cemetery plots next to her dead mother from "Sandra Powers Stegall of Lamu, Kenya," to the Potter's House "as a gift (seed sown) to their ministry."

Meanwhile, she was devouring books on real estate, like How to Make Millions in Real Estate in 3 Years Starting With No Cash and Robert G. Allen's Nothing Down. Inspired by Allen, she examined her "internal assets": creativity, imagination, vision, generosity, courage, boldness, persistence and integrity.

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