A Dallas pastor accused of stealing more than $10,000 worth of fur coats, designer purses and electronics from a church member’s home on Christmas Eve says that she’s really innocent.
“I thought I was helping,” Sandy McGriff, 52, told reporters by way of explaining why she was found at the home of Serita Agnew by police last week.
McGriff, pastor of the Church of the Living God, spent part of Christmas Day in jail, and was released on $26,000 bail. Police responded to a neighbor’s 911 call around 5:30 pm on Friday, according to The Dallas Morning news. Officers found a broken kitchen window and saw McGriff carrying two fur coats out of the house. They also found a laptop and three purses in McGriff’s Jaguar. From the Morning News’ initial report:
McGriff told officers that a friend had sent her to pick up her coats and that her arm was injured because she could not find a key under the doormat and had to break in through the window.
Police called the resident, Serita Agnew, who told them she had not given anyone permission to go into her house or take her property.
But McGriff, who has been a pastor for eight years, told a different story to reporters who she invited to her home on Monday. In a taped interview (video below), McGriff admits to speaking with Agnew on Christmas Eve, but says she was simply in the neighborhood later when “something” told her to drive by Agnew’s house. There, she saw two men coming out from the side of the house. She pulled into the driveway to investigate. After not finding the spare key, she went around the building, and “saw that the window was broke.”
“My mistake was, I did not call 911 and I went through the window,” McGriff said. “I just used poor judgment.”
She went in the house. “I said ‘well let me get what I know that they would probably want,’” McGriff said. She got the laptop first, and then said she saw the coats on the way out. She did so, McGriff said, to prevent the items from being taken should the two men come back. It’s what she would have done in any situation, she says.
“If I see two guys leaving from your house, I would check on it,” McGriff said.
For her part, Agnew seemed taken aback by the incident.
“She really seemed to be this woman who had a connection with God,” she told the Morning News. “I still really can’t believe it.”
Watch McGriff tell her side of the story:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com