LaFayette church rattled by charges against pastor, wife

LaFayette church rattled by charges against pastor, wife

September 26th, 2011 by Kate Belz in News

Christi and Roger Morgan's 2,500-square-foot home is in Chickamauga, Ga. Christi Morgan is charged with stealing money from her cousin to buy the $165,000 house with cash.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Roger Morgan

Roger Morgan

Christi Morgan, 44, was charged with theft by conversation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She turned herself in at Catoosa County Jail on Sunday, authorities said.

Christi Morgan, 44, was charged with theft by...

Bill Mills always enjoyed Roger Morgan's preaching.

Morgan, the pastor of North LaFayette Baptist Church, was a reserved man -- but he preached with fervor.

"Brother Roger could get emotional up there," Mills said. "He preached the Bible. He was good."

So Mills and the other congregants at the tiny church were shocked when mug shots of their pastor and his wife, Christi, appeared in the newspaper.

Christi Morgan, 44, has been charged with felony theft, accused of stealing at least $165,000 from 64-year-old Jackie Humphrey, a cousin for whom Christi had power of attorney.

Roger Morgan, 50, is accused of turning a blind eye as his wife used the money to pay cash for a 2,500-square-foot home in Chickamauga with three bedrooms, a wide lawn and a small swimming pool.

He has been charged with felony theft by conversion.

"When I talked to people in the church, well ... we were all disappointed. But they were all willing for me to ask him to resign," said Mills, 80, a founding member of the stalwartly independent church.

Mills spoke with Roger Morgan on the phone the next day and asked his pastor of six years to resign. Morgan complied.

Mike Humphrey -- Jackie Humphrey's cousin on the other side of the family -- said his cousin was isolated in an assisted-living facility in Rossville and Christi Morgan had "basically stolen Jackie's life out from under her" since gaining power of attorney three years before.

In April, Mike Humphrey said, he learned that Christi Morgan had sold the Trion home Jackie Humphrey had lived in since she was a teenager before moving to an assisted living facility.

Besides the home, Christi Morgan got rid of all her cousin's possessions, Mike Humphrey said.

Gone are the box of family recipes, grandparents' wedding ring and a book that contained the entire family tree.

"They basically acted like she was dead," Mike Humphrey said.

When he asked his cousin Jackie why she let go of the house, she didn't know what he was talking about.

The family hired a private detective to look into the way Jackie Humphrey's money had been spent, and in August Jackie Humphrey filed a civil suit against Christi Morgan.

In the lawsuit, Jackie Humphrey alleges that in June, Christi Morgan stopped paying her bills for the assisted-living facility and did not purchase her medications on time.

She claims that Christi Morgan wouldn't bring her items from her home in Trion and that she refused to take her to the dentist for "much-needed dental work."

Finally, the suit alleges that Christi Morgan had refused to account for about $800,000 worth of Jackie Humphrey's assets.

"There's all kinds of money that hasn't been accounted for," Mike Humphrey said. "It's hard to believe."

In her answer to Jackie Humphrey's civil complaint, Christi Morgan stated that she stopped paying the rent because Jackie Humphrey's Social Security check didn't come in the mail.

She also claimed she sold the home because it was "empty and decaying and not easily insurable."

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation started looking into the case in August. Agents arrested Christi Morgan on Aug. 30.

The warrant for Roger Morgan went out two weeks later, with authorities stating that he should have known that the money used to buy the Morgan home was stolen.

Bill Mills said he never saw anything to worry about with his pastor.

While he preached, Roger Morgan also maintained a job at Dixie Industries. He still works there, according to employee listings.

He preached on Sundays and mowed the grass Saturday afternoons. Other than that, Mills said he was rarely in town and rarely visited church members.

And members rarely saw Christi Morgan.

"We heard she was sick," Mills said. "I really don't know more than that."

In July, Christi Morgan was interviewed on an Internet Christian radio show built around the question "What am I going to do with the second half of my life?"

In the interview, Morgan said she had been a pastor's wife for 25 years, and that in 2005 she abandoned her family to move to Nashville for a new job.

She moved back after losing the job two years later and eventually reunited with Roger Morgan.

"I have had a lot of life experiences and been through a lot of things," she says, referring to the period she said she "did my own thing" in Nashville. "And I can now live my life to glorify [God]."

In 2008 she started caring for her cousin, Nell Humphrey, Jackie Humphrey's mother.

During that period, Morgan became executor of Nell Humphrey's will and gained power of attorney over Jackie Humphrey, according to the civil suit.

In November 2010, Morgan bought the 2,500-square-foot home in rural Chickamauga.

A woman who answered the door at the Morgans' home Friday afternoon declined to comment about the case.

The Morgans' next date in Catoosa County Criminal Court had not been set as of Friday. Christi Morgan is due in court on the civil suit Oct. 12.

Meanwhile, North LaFayette Baptist is on the lookout for a new pastor. Members expected to have one candidate deliver the sermon at the church on Sunday.

"I'm looking forward to hearing him preach," Mills said last week. "If he works out, we'll have a new pastor."