Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 10, 2013

Church and parents wage war of words

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

WELLS —  Both sides say the other is lying.

The parents of Catherine Grove of Arkansas contend the Church of Wells is a cult holding their daughter in thrall.

Officials with the church counter that Grove is a former Satanist they are trying to help retrain in the ways of the church.

The Church of Wells first attracted media attention in May 2012, when a three-day old baby girl died within the congregation and the parents waited 15 hours after her death to call 911.

Ultimately, an autopsy found that the baby died of natural causes, although the Cherokee County Sheriff's De-partment investigation into the death was never formally announ-ced as closed.

But none of the church elders made any formal statement to the media about the youngster's death.

In July, Catherine Grove of Arkansas was apparently reported missing.

A week later Catherine Grove phoned her parents and told them she was fine and would be staying with the congregation of the Church of Wells.

The parents followed, traveling to Wells – where they have conducted a campaign to promote their belief their daughter is the captive of a cult. They apparently are trying to  convince her to come home with them.

The Groves have effectively provoked the first public comment from the church. Sean Morris went as far as to send mass emails rebutting their statements and calling for a 3 p.m. Sunday press conference at the group's “Church House.”

“The Groves desire to oversimplify the situation and make us appear to be as madmen,” said an apparently-exasperated church elder Sean Morris. “We have, generally speaking, kept silent about this information because we have not wanted to defame the Groves unnecessarily, we have not wanted such information of this kind – because it is a shame to even speak of it – to go public for the world to gossip about.”

Parents Patty and Andy Grove have conducted a very public,  see-saw argument with the church that has spilled dramatically into public forums such as  Facebook, the church's website, and even into a recent town hall-style meeting.

A Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter attempted to contact Patty and Andy Grove about the issue on Sunday, just before the press conference was supposed to take place.

The Groves had sent a flurry of emails requesting to discuss the issue.

However, Morris cancelled the press conference only hours before it was supposed to take place.

And by the time the reporter reached Andy Grove by phone he declined to discuss the situation.

“I guess the only thing to say is 'sorry to have wasted your time,'” he said.

When asked why the press conference was cancelled, Sean Morris contended the Groves family removed a Facebook page that contained evidence that Catherine Groves had been somehow involved with Satanism.

“Getting caught in a den of reporters without the Facebook page as evidence of what I would be saying… that is a position which any reasonable person would avoid,” he said in an email. “The satanism on that page was so evil and vile … I could be incriminated myself if I had no evidence to prove it.”

On Monday, Morris said he planed to spend the day in prayer and study of Scripture, so he can figure out if the church will speak to the media.

Authorities have not confirmed that there is any investigation into the group.

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department Capt. John Raffield was out of the office and unavailable for comment Monday.