The Reverend Freak

On judgment day, the bishop's women have all come together in one exquisitely cold place: the 372nd District Court in Fort Worth, where a jury has just agreed on a sentence for the Reverend Terry Hornbuckle.

The 44-year-old pastor has been convicted of drugging and raping three women, two of them former members of his Arlington megachurch. And while a hyperactive air conditioner generates a frigid breeze in the courtroom, a capacity crowd awaits the jury's decision.

The bishop's women are arrayed in various places in state District Judge Scott Wisch's courtroom. There is the wife, Renee Hornbuckle, cocoa-skinned and immaculately finished in a brown pantsuit, who stares an empty stare at her husband, a man known to many of his congregants simply as Bishop.

The bishop wears a tailored suit with a thigh-length jacket, the sort he'd choose for any occasion in the spotlight. For 20 years, he sat beside his wife on a church stage, enthroned like a king with his queen. She was the delicate ornament on display, he was the dark-skinned, street-talking black preacher of humble southern Dallas origins whose charisma landed him in a world of money, minor celebrity and access to the occasional Dallas Cowboy.

To this world he later added the ingredients of sex--with scores of women, judging by the accounts of former church members--and drugs. Today it is about to come crashing down.

Renee sits literally at the bishop's right hand, two rows back. She brings a little purple pillow to cushion her on the wooden bench reserved for the defendant's family. She has sat in precisely the same spot every day through the five-week trial, expressionless behind mirrored glasses. In her hands is a small, green leather-bound Bible with an inscription in tiny gold italics: "Pastor Renee Hornbuckle." She makes no statements to the gathered media; all she's been heard to say is an occasional under-the-breath comment--"I'm gonna need some No-Doz to stay awake through this thing." Mirrored glasses and the Word: These are her shields against an outside world that desperately wants to know why she continues to stand by her man.

Beside her are her "armor-bearers." In black church tradition, these are the men and women who faithfully attend to a minister's personal needs. They include her bodyguard, a man who never takes out his Bluetooth earpiece, and two plus-sized fashion plates who've spent every day of this trial at her side.

Then there is the girlfriend. There is no guaranteed seat for her behind the bishop; she sits in the back row of the courtroom, with her own posse of fashion-conscious female friends standing by in support. With coffee-colored skin and a voluminous head of spiral curls, the girlfriend is not welcome on the family bench. She exchanges the occasional icy look with Renee.

Then there are the women Hornbuckle raped. The little red "Reserved" sign on the victims' bench doesn't specify who's supposed to sit there, but it is easy to see that Kate Jones--her pseudonym for this trial--sees not a man of God at the defense table, but a devil. The dishwater blonde, a former drug user, wears a plain, cream-colored sweater and carries a cheap purse. She stares intently at the back of Hornbuckle's head as if she is trying to force this man to bear her rage. She is the only one of the three rape victims at this trial who was not a member of Agape Christian Fellowship, Hornbuckle's church. The preacher picked her up at a gym in the Mid-Cities, smoked meth with her, drugged her and then raped her. Hornbuckle's defense attorney derided her as a "meth ho."

The defense can't come up with any such label for Krystal Buchanan, who never knew Hornbuckle as anything but her pastor. Sitting next to Kate Jones in a smart black jacket, Buchanan's mother, Loretta Sheppard, takes her daughter's place on the victims' bench while Krystal is away coaching a community college basketball team.

Hornbuckle lured Krystal to a Euless apartment in the summer of 2003 with the promise of a birthday present. He gave her $120. He also drugged and raped her. Before that night, she told the court, she was a virgin. Why did she accompany him in the first place? Her plaintive answer: "He was my bishop."

Last, there are current and former Agape parishioners, mostly women, both supporters and detractors of the bishop, who've scrambled for open seats every day in this courtroom.

The loyal wife, the sexy girlfriend, the meth user, the former virgin and the divided congregation were never meant to come together in one place. It is a surreal tableau on sentencing day in the Terry Hornbuckle case, August 28. Newspapers and television have covered each day of this seamy trial, though a significant chunk of the material presented to the jury is not fit to print in a family newspaper. What is missing from the blanket coverage is any sense of why: Why Bishop Terry Hornbuckle made this descent from man of God to meth-smoking rapist. Why many of his congregation members stood by him. Why his wife put up with him when his indiscretions were widely known within the church.

And just what kind of church was this? Who went there and why?

The Dallas Observer set out to find answers to those questions, but after interviewing several church members, attorneys and members of the victims' families, as well as hearing and reading the testimony of Hornbuckle's accusers in the criminal and civil cases against him, the answers proved elusive.

What the Observer did find is that the Hornbuckle case was even more sordid than many outsiders thought:

  • On Sunday mornings in the last few years, Hornbuckle was increasingly given to making bizarre statements from the pulpit. One time--in an incident remembered by every church member the Dallas Observer interviewed at length--Hornbuckle preached about bathing his adolescent daughter. "You men need to bathe your daughters," he exhorted his members. "Clean 'em up good."

  • One married church member, after a sexual encounter with Hornbuckle, began to complain of severe abdominal pain. A trip to the doctor revealed the problem: A metal cock ring--a sexual device used to prolong an erection--had been rammed deep into her abdominal cavity.

  • One young woman who testified during Hornbuckle's sentencing claimed he performed oral sex on her in the back of a church van during a trip to San Antonio. She'd come along on the trip as a nanny, and Hornbuckle told her he wanted to teach her how to have an orgasm.

In the end, jury members and the public were left with pieces of a puzzle: a self-appointed bishop who'd so finely tuned the mechanics of seduction that he was able to get away with it for more than a decade right under the noses of his wife and his elders--leaders who apparently looked the other way as the lives and faith of several of their fellow church members were shattered. The young women whose attentions the bishop cultivated during lengthy, exuberant church services fueled by the power of suggestion and incessant talk about money and success. The brazen defense strategy employed by Hornbuckle's attorneys--sure, he was an awful husband and pastor and man of God, but he wasn't a rapist.

In the end, none of the puzzle pieces quite fit together. But each offered a glimpse into the bishop's bizarre world of religion, money, sex and drugs.

In the Beginning

Before Terry Hornbuckle was the bishop, exerting power and influence over thousands, he was a lowly Bible study leader, teaching 15 congregants in Irving. That was in 1986. The next year, he housed the group in an old Grand Prairie Dairy Queen. The congregation grew, and he moved his small flock to a strip shopping center on Division Street in Arlington, a stretch of road known best for bail bond offices, used car lots and strip clubs. It was here, in 1992, that Agape Christian Fellowship first took shape--a nondenominational church with big dreams and a Pentecostal flavor.

People came to hear the charismatic man who'd started calling himself "Bishop." Attendance grew; people were captivated by his image of success, his message of prosperity. The Lord wanted his people to prosper and be blessed with "increase," an appealing message to his predominantly black congregation. Here, they found hope.

By 1999, Hornbuckle found himself preaching each Sunday to more than 2,500 people in a warehouse-sized megachurch. The bishop rose to see the kind of power and wealth he'd always dreamed of. He and his wife drove Mercedes-Benzes and Cadillacs. They lived in expensive homes and wore the best clothes. At the same time, week after week, he was imploring his members to give their all to the church, especially their finances.

That in itself wasn't unusual for a black congregation that had many of the trappings of Pentecostalism--prophetic messages, exuberant worship, exhortations to take steps of faith. In black churches, the leader often embodies the aspirations of his followers. If he looks bedraggled and drives a hoopty, it is a reflection on himself as well as his flock--and not a flattering one. Agape was full of young men and women who looked to their bishop to provide them the keys to prosperity. To reach down from his perch of success and pull them up too.

The bishop encouraged their ambitions and cultivated their attentions. He would sometimes call up groups of single moms and bathe them in compliments and words of encouragement. He probably didn't fail to notice that many of them were beautiful, vulnerable and looking for a man to provide love and stability in their lives.

In recent years, the calls for offerings reportedly intensified. On Sundays, Hornbuckle would often ask everyone who hadn't given their tithe--a donation of 10 percent of one's income, a common practice in Pentecostal churches--to raise their hands. Many were embarrassed but took it as inspiration to work harder and give more to their bishop. Pay your rent last, he said, and give Agape your tithe, the "firstfruits." God will provide.

Gradually he became a figurehead in the black church world. Bishop T.D. Jakes wrote a laudatory blurb for one of Hornbuckle's self-published books. The bishop hung out with Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders, he'd brag from the pulpit. He knew Quincy Carter. Emmitt Smith even wrote a letter to Tarrant County prosecutors extolling the virtues of Hornbuckle and his marriage to Renee. The couple had counseled Smith and his wife, he wrote, and he looked up to them. In his eyes, they had the perfect marriage.

And there were a lot of good things going on at Agape under the Hornbuckles. Church leaders helped people buy homes and build better job skills. Maybe they could live in a $742,000 house, just like the Hornbuckles. He'd tell them how they could save up and drive expensive cars, such as his Cadillac Escalade. All blessings from God--though ones that came from exercising responsibility as well as faith, he was careful to note. But behind the bishop was the man. A man addicted to women, power and, in the end, drugs. It would ultimately cost him his church and his freedom.

It's hard to say when drug addiction entered his life. Hornbuckle had a bad back and had been taking painkillers for a long time. But methamphetamine--which he had in his possession when he was first arrested for sexual assault in March 2005--is a step beyond painkillers. Since Hornbuckle, his wife and the church elders aren't talking to the media, it's anyone's guess when hard drugs became a part of the bishop's lifestyle.

Sure, he'd give what he called "muscle relaxers" to his then-girlfriend and executive assistant, Lisa Mikals, back in 2003, she testified. Sometimes, he'd act a little crazy or paranoid. But meth? The bishop? Once, Mikals said, she'd even found a glass pipe in that little black bag he always carried with him. He told her it belonged to his "knucklehead" nephew. She wanted to believe him, she said. And she did.

But it became obvious after the arrest that Bishop Hornbuckle, not a wayward relative, was the one taking drugs. In addition to the meth that police confiscated from Hornbuckle's Escalade, they found Valtrex, a drug used to control the symptoms of herpes; Viagra; and a variety of prescription drugs. Some were valid prescriptions. Others appeared to have been prescribed to one of his elders. The bishop, it seemed, needed a lot of chemicals and had a hard time living without them--a condition of his bail.

Over the next year, Hornbuckle would have his bond revoked twice, fail two drug tests and refuse to take another. Police would book him in and out of jail four times for bail violations. Finally, after posting a $3.62 million bond in March 2006, Hornbuckle left the Tarrant County courthouse before the paperwork was finished. He was rearrested and would spend the rest of his time awaiting trial in a jail cell.

From tailored suits to jail garb, it was a long fall for Terry Hornbuckle. Terry and Renee had been at the top of the world, leading more than 2,000 people to the promised land from their 30,000-square-foot sanctuary. They were beloved, some said. Others described the congregation's dedication to Bishop Hornbuckle as something much darker.

Five women would publicly accuse Terry Hornbuckle of sexually assaulting them. The prosecutor and plaintiffs' attorney would allude to other victims, but only these five chose to subject their allegations to legal scrutiny. The accusations of three women--one of whom was also an accuser in the criminal case--are detailed in the pending civil case against Hornbuckle, the church and several of its elders. Joycelyn was an adolescent on the brink of womanhood whose sexuality had been called into question. Rosita was a grown woman expecting one of the bishop's blessings. Buchanan, the virgin, was the first to testify in the criminal trial. According to court documents, Terry Hornbuckle used his position as their bishop to lure each of them to him. After all, Agape was their church home.

The Bath

A well-meaning friend steered 17-year-old Joycelyn into Hornbuckle's hands, according to her complaint filed in court in December 2004. She claims the bishop sexually assaulted her on two occasions.

In July 2004, a friend of Joycelyn's called Hornbuckle to express concern that Joycelyn might be a lesbian. Hornbuckle reportedly told the friend to drop Joycelyn off at the Sonic near Mayfield Road and Highway 360 in Arlington. Come back at 10 p.m. to pick her up, he told the friend. At the Sonic, Joycelyn climbed into her bishop's car, and they started talking.

"Hornbuckle was very concerned about the possibility of [Joycelyn] being gay," court documents say. They drove to the bishop's house, where he told the girl to take half a pill and some water. Because Joycelyn "trusted Defendant Hornbuckle, as her Bishop," she did as she was told.

Then they drove to the run-down, one-story apartment building on Martha Street in Euless where, a couple of weeks later, Hornbuckle would rape Krystal Buchanan. On the way, Hornbuckle asked Joycelyn if the pill, which he'd told her was a muscle relaxer, had taken effect. Joycelyn said no, so Hornbuckle gave her the other half.

Once they arrived, Hornbuckle told Joycelyn his "homeboy" was thinking of buying the apartment property and had invested some money in it. Inside, Hornbuckle gave Joycelyn a drink--she initially thought it was water, but it tasted like "some sort of liquor." Hornbuckle asked Joycelyn to come into the bedroom to watch TV. After that point, court documents say, Joycelyn remembers only bits and pieces of what happened.

What she does remember: Hornbuckle being on top of her. Then, a flash recollection of being in the shower with Hornbuckle bathing her. She was too scared to say anything to her parents about what had happened, court records contend.

Days later, Joycelyn was baby-sitting at an uncle's house when Hornbuckle called her cell phone. What was she doing? he asked. Watching TV, she said, because the children were asleep. Not long after they talked, Hornbuckle knocked on the front door, and Joycelyn let him in. He was smoking a pipe. He grabbed her arm and took her to the master bedroom, then asked her to take a puff and remove her clothes. When Joycelyn refused, documents say, Hornbuckle "forcefully removed [her] clothing and sexually assaulted her."

For her troubles, he left a $100 bill on the bed.

The Blessing

Money brought about the meeting between Rosita and Terry Hornbuckle. It was July 27, 2003, almost exactly a year before the alleged rape of Joycelyn. Hornbuckle wanted to give Rosita what most people in the church referred to as a "blessing"--a cash or check gift. It wasn't unusual for Hornbuckle to do such a thing. In fact, he was known for it. Agape members believed in planting monetary "seeds" of faith: Give unto others, and it will be given unto you.

This time, Hornbuckle wanted to meet in the parking lot of a Quality Inn in Grand Prairie. When Rosita arrived, there were other people around, so she didn't think it would be a problem to get in Hornbuckle's truck when he asked. Court documents say Hornbuckle was drinking a bottle of wine; Rosita turned down the offer of a drink.

Then, court documents say, Hornbuckle "took his penis out of his pants and fondled himself," eventually taking Rosita's hand and substituting it for his own. She told Hornbuckle it was wrong; she needed to go home. Hornbuckle then "pulled her dress up and pulled her panties down," court documents say, as she tried to resist. But it was hot in the car, and Hornbuckle was too strong for Rosita.

She claims he ejaculated inside her. But she left without her "blessing."

The Virgin

Krystal Buchanan's stepfather--one of the bishop's trusted friends--got the gears in motion for her encounter with Terry Hornbuckle. Dale Sheppard gave the bishop Buchanan's cell phone number in July 2004. That was nothing unusual, Buchanan would testify; Sheppard was the bishop's friend, and the bishop called kids in his church all the time. Maybe Hornbuckle could give her a paying job to help support her college studies.

Buchanan had attended Agape since she was a teenager. Now, at 21, she was a college basketball player, a point guard for the University of Texas at Arlington. "I got the Word from him," she'd tell the court.

The bishop called Buchanan, who'd just turned 21, saying he needed to give his "baby girl"--as he often called her--a birthday present. Buchanan figured he might give her a "blessing or a seed"--perhaps a motivational CD or a cash gift. Buchanan testified that Hornbuckle got specific, telling her he'd "maybe write me a check with some 0's at the end."

That afternoon, while Buchanan went birthday shopping with her mom, the bishop called a couple of times. Could she meet him at the Wendy's off Trinity Boulevard and Highway 360 at about 9 p.m.? Sure, Bishop. She heard his kids in the background. She figured they'd be there.

Before meeting Hornbuckle, Buchanan--who would tell the court she was a lesbian--dropped off her girlfriend, Alicia, at a strip club called Tomcats and headed to Wendy's. She got a burger and waited in her car. She expected to see the bishop pull up in his Escalade. Instead, it was a rental car--a silver Galant. People might be following him, he said. Then he told her he'd left his checkbook at his "homeboy's" place, and they had to go get it. Get in, he urged. She complied. After all, he's the bishop.

Almost immediately the public face of Bishop Hornbuckle vanished. "I'm a real nigga," he told her.

"Behind the scenes," Hornbuckle told Buchanan, "I like the licky-lick." She took it to mean oral sex and didn't respond. Hornbuckle quickly changed the subject, saying, "I'm just trying to be real with you."

Hornbuckle stopped at a liquor store, but it was closed. It seemed like they were driving forever, she thought, and she didn't recognize the streets. Finally, they arrived at a one-story apartment complex. It was dark, but Buchanan said she'd wait in the car. It wasn't safe, the bishop told her--come inside. Again she complied.

Hornbuckle carried two bags into the apartment--a duffel bag and a small, black rectangular satchel. Buchanan sat on the sofa, and Hornbuckle grabbed a bottle of water for her in the kitchen. Then, he started talking about the punch.

"My homeboy made some punch the other night," he said, heading back to the refrigerator, out of Buchanan's sight. He came back, handed the drink to her and began the emotional probing. He clutched her hand. Had her family "been struggling"? No, they hadn't, she told him. They were fine.

Over the next several minutes, Buchanan testified that Hornbuckle would go in and out of the bathroom and in and out of the house, answering his cell phone. He kept a close watch on that black bag, and Krystal took a few sips of the punch. She claims it tasted "bitter."

Hornbuckle asked if she felt buzzed yet. She said she didn't. But soon she began to feel tired, like she couldn't move. Hornbuckle went to the kitchen, fiddling in his little black bag, and she wandered around the apartment into the bedroom. The last thing she remembers is hearing a phone ring.

Her next memory was of a presence lifting off of her. She looked up to see a naked Hornbuckle run into the bathroom. She realized she was on the bed with no clothes on. Still woozy, she managed to stand and find her clothes on the side of the bed. She tried to get dressed again, but just then Hornbuckle emerged from the bathroom.

"I'm not done," he said. He grabbed her wrist and guided her back down on the bed. She was having trouble focusing. She felt what she would later describe as the feeling of a tampon being inserted too far into her vagina. She tried to push him off, and he jumped up. As she got up again to get dressed, she says she saw him masturbating.

Before they left the apartment, she said, he asked her to blow out the candles he'd lit on the bedside table. This time she refused.

The Prophecy

Renee Hornbuckle could preach, but she could also prophesy. Once, she did just that to Traci Williams, a bleach-blond, caramel-skinned woman with a nose ring. It would be Williams' mission to break something big, Renee told her. It took a long time for Williams to grasp the import of Renee's prophecy. Today its meaning seems obvious to her.

"You are going to confront or uncover something," Williams said she was told, not long after she and her husband Tony joined Agape Christian Fellowship in 1997. She was going through a rough time at work and had asked to talk to the pastors about it. The prophecy must be about her job, she thought. But then she saw visions that led her to believe otherwise.

One day as she was leaving the church with her family, she says, she looked back and saw a vision of all the people in the building tied down with chains.

She saw church elders standing at the door, bound to the ground. She asked her mother about the vision. "These people are in jeopardy of their salvation," her mother explained.

Another time, Williams said, she saw a spirit spring from one of the female elders during a church service. It flew out of the woman, who was rumored to be having an affair with Bishop Hornbuckle, looking like a ghostly shadow. Then it stood next to her with its hands on its hips and spoke.

"It said, 'This is my house,'" Williams says, swaying her body from side to side. Only later, when the confessions began pouring in, did she understand what she'd seen.

Many of Hornbuckle's victims, she said, confided in her and her husband months before their allegations became public in the media.

Tony Williams, Traci's husband, says at first he and his wife would wonder why people were suddenly leaving the church. Then, as the stories rolled in, "Traci and I put it together." There were the Gressets. Mary Gresset testified during the trial that Hornbuckle had tried to seduce her while her husband, Mark, was in rehab for alcohol addiction. They told the Williamses about their experience.

Then, Tony says, he was the one who finally convinced Joycelyn's parents that the rumors about the bishop's numerous affairs were true when they refused to believe what was happening at the church. Traci worked with the relatives of several of the accusers and would end up hearing their stories at work.

Tony Williams, a hairdresser who used to color Renee Hornbuckle's hair, is also a touring musician and backup singer for Kanye West. He'd run into the bishop at some of the area nightclubs where he performed. Tony was there to do a job; the bishop was there to chase women. He says many victims came to the couple totally unaware that others had shared similar stories of what Hornbuckle had done to them. "They...would feel led to come to us and say, 'This is what happened to me,'" he says.

The Williamses stopped attending Agape in April 2004. Though rumors about the bishop were flying all over the church, many members elected to stay. "They have your emotion and your spirit and your money and your time," Traci says.

The members, bound up in what Traci calls "man's rules," stayed blindly loyal to the bishop. Scriptural references about submitting to those in authority were cited constantly. Emphasis was placed on never questioning the bishop's role. Even new member pamphlets command parishioners to stay loyal to their leaders.

It was that kind of loyalty that kept radio personality Rudy V at Agape for two mind-wrenching years.

The Lost Sheep

Rudy V, former host of the Quiet Storm on KRNB-105.7 FM, said that at the height of his passion for Agape Fellowship, he would do anything for his bishop. So would a lot of people.

"There was an obsession with the man," Rudy V said in an interview in his Mansfield home in 2005, a year before he started his radio gig at Dallas' KSOC-94.5 FM--"K-SOUL." The smooth-talking radio host started attending Agape in 2000 after gospel singer Kevin Thornton spoke highly of the church one Sunday morning when he appeared on Rudy V's religious-themed morning show.

Rudy V, born Kevyn Matthew Williams, was intrigued. From Monday through Thursday, he invited listeners to come with him to see this Bishop Hornbuckle preach. Rudy V described it as "invigorating."

He was so taken by Hornbuckle that he'd play clips of his sermons on the Sunday morning show. Each week, he'd implore his listeners--mostly women--to visit Agape. He became enthralled with the bishop's constant preaching about tithes and the potential wealth that would come to him if he'd just give, give, give a little more of his own money to the church.

Rudy V said he vividly remembers scrounging for change in his 400-square-foot apartment in north Arlington, terrified that something calamitous would happen to him if he didn't come up with his tithe every week.

"If I didn't have that whole tithe," he said, "either I was going to get struck down, or if I got too close to [the bishop] he would get killed."

Everyone had good reason to believe such things, Rudy V said, especially because of the placards. Some Sundays, Hornbuckle might call up a group of volunteers from the audience and hand them signs to hold up at the front of the church.

On one side were the tragedies that would befall the congregation if they failed to tithe: disease, divorce, loss of job, loss of home, children gone wild. But there was hope. A tithing church member could hope for "increase." More wealth. More happiness. More stability.

Eventually, Rudy V met his third wife at the church. Hornbuckle counseled them and would later preside over their wedding. When they missed three Sundays right after the wedding because of traveling, something happened that turned Rudy V off forever.

He'd already had a few problems getting the church to accurately report his yearly donations, but he'd decided to overlook that. Then, after those three Sunday absences, he said, Elder Eben Conner gave him a call. He noticed the church hadn't received any tithes from Rudy V. Would he go ahead and send them now?

Rudy told him they'd gladly tithe the full amount when they returned. But Rudy V said Conner replied, "You're being unfaithful to your tithes. You don't have any reason to wonder why you're not syndicated." (Conner didn't return phone calls requesting an interview.)

Rudy V was crushed. Syndication was something the DJ had been praying for. And in that moment of despair, he said he realized God didn't need his money. Not right then at that very moment, anyway. He would no longer allow himself to be pressured to give. He wrote a letter resigning his church membership the next day. That was in 2002.

Some days he would feel like he'd disappointed God with his finances. But the guilt was nothing like what he felt when he got a call one day from Joycelyn's dad--his close friend, Chris. Rudy V was driving when the phone rang.

"The bishop raped my baby," Chris reportedly said, voice cracking.

Rudy V pulled over into the nearest parking lot and threw up. He'd spread the bishop's name all over the metroplex to his women listeners. He shared in the blame.

"I was responsible for leading so many people there," Rudy V said. "Especially so many ladies...I don't know if I'll ever not be reminded of it."

Judgment Day

After eight hours of deliberations, the jury had agreed on a sentence. Now everyone crammed into the courtroom one last time to hear whether Terry Hornbuckle would be blessed with probation or condemned to jail.

Days earlier, the jury of nine women and three men--all white except for one black man--took 37 hours to arrive at a verdict: No one could say they'd rushed to judgment. Hornbuckle had been found guilty of the rapes of Krystal Buchanan, "Jane Doe" and "Kate Jones"--the latter two legal pseudonyms. Hornbuckle had pleaded not guilty, and his defense team rested without calling any witnesses, saying only that the prosecution had not met its burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

One could easily speculate that the names of the bishop's women--Krystal, Jane, Kate, Rachel, Joycelyn, Rosita, Alisa, Mary, Lisa--were swimming around in Renee Hornbuckle's head that final day of court. Anything could be possible behind those silver-tinted lenses and that stoic expression. Here was a woman whose faith was on trial every day her husband had been seated at the defense table.

On the other side of the room, two other women clasped hands in the most unlikely of circumstances. A black woman--Loretta Sheppard, Buchanan's mom--and a white woman, Kate Jones: The loving mother and the former drug addict, both praying for the same thing: jail, and many years of it.

Just before 5 p.m., Judge Wisch read the sentences slowly and deliberately. Fourteen years for the sexual assault of Krystal Buchanan; 10 years for the sexual assault of "Jane Doe"; 15 years for the sexual assault of "Kate Jones."

Sheppard squeezed Jones' hand. They held each other, shaking and sobbing. The man who ruined so many days of their lives would now have many days of his own taken away.

Renee Hornbuckle couldn't leave the courtroom fast enough. As soon as the judge finished reading the sentences, she was up and out of her reserved bench seat. She didn't stay to hear the victims' impact statements read by Sheppard and Jones. Her husband would be called a devil, unfit to be kept alive.

She dashed past the cameras waiting outside, armor-bearers in tow, and vanished.

But inside, as Bishop Terry Hornbuckle looked down in defeat, Sheppard and Jones bowed their heads as if in prayer.

"We did it," Jones whispered. Sheppard nodded, tears falling from her eyes. "We did it."


Hornbuckle will serve his sentence terms concurrently, potentially putting the bishop behind bars for the next 15 years, though he will be eligible for parole after serving half that time. The jury fined Hornbuckle a total of $30,000--the maximum allowed--for the three criminal cases.

Soon after the sentencing, Hornbuckle was fired as pastor of Agape Christian Fellowship. Renee, who'd been filling in as pastor while the bishop was in jail, has been given four months to prove whether she can lead the church on a permanent basis. After years of preaching prosperity, assuring his congregation that they could achieve material wealth through faithful giving, Terry Hornbuckle is now broke.

Last week, Hornbuckle said he is too poor to hire an appeals lawyer, even though his wife still owns a $742,000 home in Colleyville, and another $202,000 property is registered to his name in Dallas County. The Agape church property in Arlington is valued at around $4 million, and when he was arrested in 2005, Hornbuckle was driving an Escalade. But the bishop also has the civil lawsuit pending against him, and if he loses that, he may owe millions more to the other women who claim he raped them.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes
Stephanie Morris