By Bob Allen
A longtime administrative assistant at a Southern Baptist church in Alabama is accused of using a church credit card to make unauthorized personal purchases totaling more than $129,000 in a grand jury indictment alleging theft and fraud.
Deborah “Debbie” Mansell, 63, was arrested July 16. Mansell, until recently ministry assistant to the administration pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, Ala., faces charges of first-degree theft of property and 20 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.
According to the Times Daily newspaper in Florence, Ala., an investigation was launched after an internal audit found discrepancies in financial records among more than 2,200 transactions that Mansell made from July 2011 until April 2014. Police said the investigation goes back only to 2011 due to a statute of limitations.
According to a web page archived last November, Mansell has been a member of Highland Park Baptist Church for 46 years and worked at the church for 23 years. She was described as a widow and mother of two with three grandchildren who “loves the Lord, HPBC and music.”
Highland Park lead pastor Brett Pitman told the Times Daily the church is “wounded and hurt” by Mansell’s alleged actions.
It’s the second time this year that a former staff member at Highland Park was charged with a serious crime. Jeff Eddie, the church’s long-time associate pastor for children and church administration, was arrested in February on multiple charges of child sex abuse.
Eddie, 42, who started work at Highland Baptist Church in 1998, reportedly told police during his initial questioning that he sexually abused so many children that he could not remember the number.
Eddie pleaded guilty in March to 20 counts of child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.