Seductress of the Saints

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

On the flip side are her notes on "internal liabilities": anger, small-mindedness, perfectionism, pettiness, fear, anxiety, hesitancy, bad reputation, laziness, sloth, procrastination, poor organization.

Just notes or an honest self-appraisal?

There is nothing in Bridewell's hundreds of pages of writings that indicates she acknowledges how her lies and deceit have devastated her family and others.

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.

In an undated letter to her son, Bridewell attempts a reconciliation. But she offers only shallow platitudes. She mentions her first husband, David Stegall (but not his suicide), and second husband, Robert Bridewell (dead from cancer), but never mentions the third husband, Rehrig (murdered). Though there's no doubt Bridewell loves her children, she shows no understanding of why all three have taken the drastic step of shutting their own mother out of their lives: sheer self-preservation.

Bridewell never mailed the letter. She couldn't find her own son's address.


·· ·ITEM: Half-sheet of lined notebook paper, dated July 14, 2003:

DISCIPLINE!

FULL FAST

Keeping my word to You always

Faithful

Blessing Flowing

Blessing flow NOW

My now God-Father of the now season of my life

The anointing to get wealth

The power of Your anointing is upon me!

Key to my victory--your provision

Cellular pre-paid phone of my own

Laptop computer--Gateway

Divine Protector

I must perfect all that concerns You

(On reverse: "No wasting of God-given time or provision. I am doing without indulgences until my fullness of victory manifests. I have determined this & declared this in Jesus' Name.")

·· ·ITEM: Copy of the Metro section of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, dated July 8, 2003, featuring a story called "Critical Hearing: Witnesses describe woman in antifreeze poisoning case." The story outlines the case against Lynn Turner, a 911 operator accused of killing her police officer husband in 1995 by slipping antifreeze into his food. Police said Turner was also a suspect in the antifreeze poisoning death in 2001 of her firefighter boyfriend, who fathered her two children. Each death initially had been ruled of natural causes.

·· ·ITEM: OPI nail lacquer in Peru-B-Ruby.

·· ·ITEM: One pair of soiled black silk bikini underwear from Victoria's Secret.

When she was happy, Bridewell's eyes lit up "like a chandelier." But when Bridewell reared back and heaved a cell phone at him, Daniel Crane saw something else: eyes of anger, coal-black, lights off.

For weeks, Crane (not his real name) had been trying to get the woman he knew as Camille "Bridwell" out of his house. But she refused to leave. Now he was at the end of his sanity.

They'd met in mid-July 2003 at a revival meeting in a suburban mega-church outside Atlanta. Crane wants his name and home church left out to protect his four children--and because he's embarrassed by his own, well...stupidity.

Fasting for up to 40 days at a time, Bridewell had lived the first half of 2003 in the small town in Alabama where her estranged older daughter lives. When the kindly Christian owners of a motel kicked her out for non-payment, she moved in with a family struggling to make ends meet.

But Bridewell's self-deprivation didn't trigger the desired results; her daughter refused to see her.

Tornado Bridewell touched down next in Georgia. Bridewell began attending Crane's church, first bunking with a female member in a home so small the two women slept in the same bed.

At church, Bridewell sat up front with the ministers and established donors. During the praise service, Crane was struck by Bridewell's elegance and grace; she moved her hands and body "like a true maiden of the Lord" in her Indian silks of purple and blue. Whenever it was time to go down to the altar, he'd turn and find Bridewell next to him.

Bridewell offered Crane a prophetic "word of knowledge": that he was in the middle of a divine reversal, that he was a "great man of God" about to enter a "seven-year season of prosperity." After the death of a child, an ugly divorce and business problems, those were just the words Crane wanted to hear.

During a post-church group lunch, Bridewell let it be known she saw much to like in Crane's blue eyes, chiseled features and athletic build.

"Her eyes would just dance," Crane says. "She'd squeeze my hands. Her ability to know how to push and how to pull back was faultless."

After lunch, she moved to hug him. "I just lean to do the church thing," Crane says. "She reaches in to kiss me on the mouth and presses herself full-frontal on me. But it was quick, graceful and soft. It was surprising to me, but very elegant and very appealing."

A few days later, on a walk with Bridewell, Crane was astonished by how much she knew about his ambitions for God. Using scripture, Bridewell encouraged him to reach for great heights. "She could make you feel like you were the top man on earth," Crane says.

When Bridewell asked to meet his children, Crane invited her home. There, Bridewell poured out her own unhappiness. The woman she was living with was a con artist, "deceitful." Could she stay with him for one night?

Crane said no but relented under Bridewell's persistence. "I'm going through a divorce," he said. "If anyone finds out..."

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