Longform

The Reverend Freak

Page 7 of 8

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."

Postscript

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.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes
Stephanie Morris