The Johnston County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case against a man arrested 13 times for trespassing at the same rural church.
WTSB News first reported about Elton Eugene Bryant in February. At the time Bryant had been arrested 11 times since April 2012 for trespassing at the Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church at 4440 Piney Grove Road off Highway 210 near the Harnett County line.
Bryant was arrested the 12th time in April. He was convicted last Tuesday on the misdemeanor trespassing charge, given credit for 20 days in jail awaiting trial, and released. On Sunday morning – 5 days after his release – Bryant returned to Piney Grove Church where he was arrested in the parking lot for his 13th time.
Out of the last 5 years, Bryant has spent approximately 4 years of that time in the Johnston County Jail awaiting trial on the trespassing charges. Each time, he’s convicted, ordered by a judge not to return to the church, but does so anyway.
In 2012, court documents indicated a judge requested a mental health evaluation. The results of the evaluation are not public record.
Starting in August 2013, Bryant spent 467 consecutive days in jail. In 2015, he spent 326 days in custody. After his 2015 release, he was rearrested at the church just 3 days later.
The Johnston County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to WTSB News today (Tuesday) they are taking a closer look at the case.
“We are looking closely into the circumstances surrounding the charge against Mr. Bryant,” Assistant District Attorney Paul Jackson said in an email. “However, to ensure the integrity of the judicial process and avoid any potential prejudice to the Defendant, the District Attorney’s Office cannot comment publically at this time. We will be happy to discuss the matter in detail once the criminal case is resolved.”
Earlier this year Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell issued a statement about the situation. “Every individual and church family has the right to assemble and worship freely and without fear,” Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell told WTSB News. “As Sheriff, I will continue to do everything within my authority to ensure this right is available to every person in our county.”
No one knows why Bryant, 50, continues to target the church which is about 2-1/2 miles away from his home. Each time he walks to the church and is arrested on church grounds. On Sunday, he was detained in the parking lot.
In February, Piney Grove Church Senior Pastor Timmy D. Blair Sr. released a written statement to WTSB saying in part, “All people are welcome as long as they have a desire to worship God and glorify His name. We take very seriously the security of those who worship with us in light of the various shootings and other security concerns that have occurred in churches across our nation over the last few years. It is my responsibility to insure that our congregation and those who choose to worship at Piney Grove are not intimidated or feel threatened in any way. We seek to assemble and worship freely without fear.”
Bryant is currently being held under a $10,000 bond following his latest arrest. In the previous 12 cases, Bryant has never attempted to post bond.