Judge named in church assault case

May. 29, 2013 @ 11:12 PM

A judge from outside the county will handle criminal charges involving an alleged exorcism gone wrong.

Local general sessions court judges recused themselves from the charges filed by local businessman Andrew Byrd against Pastor Joel Arwood, Arwood’s wife, Theresa, and fellow church member Charles Shields.

Byrd alleges the three assaulted him at the Family Chapel Church of God in February 2012, knocking out the crown of one tooth and cracking some other teeth as well as causing scrapes and bruises. However, he did not file charges of assault and false imprisonment against the trio until Feb. 14 of this year, at the same time he filed a lawsuit seeking $3.7 million from the group.

The local judges have recused themselves from the case, and now Jefferson County Judge Ben Strand Jr. will oversee the preliminary hearing, which is set for Aug. 14.

In Byrd’s civil suit, he claims he was called to a meeting at the church where “Teresa Arwood made statements to the effect that the plaintiff had a demon or spirit that needed to be cast out. Thereafter, (Joel Arwood and Charles Shields) physically assaulted the plaintiff.”

He claimed Arwood later bragged to his congregation that he had “punched the devil and knocked the devil’s tooth out.’

Criminal proceedings over an alleged exorcism gone wrong have been moved for the time being to another court after local judges recused themselves.

Andrew Byrd alleges that Pastor Joel Arwood, of Family Chapel Church of God in Pigeon Forge, assaulted him in February 2012. Byrd alleged Arwood was joined in the assault by his wife, Theresa, and by Charles Shield, another member of the church.

He claims that the crown from a tooth was knocked out during the dustup, and that some others were cracked, and he suffered other scrapes and bruises. However, he did not file charges of assault and false imprisonment against the trio until Feb. 14 of this year, at the same time he filed a lawsuit seeking $3.7 million from the group.

The Arwoods filed a counterclaim, seeking damages from Byrd. In their answer to his complaint, as well as the answer from Shields that doesn’t call for damages, they claim Byrd called for the meeting and attacked the three of them and threatened them with a knife.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com