A Johnston County man arrested for trespassing 11 times at the same rural church remains in jail. Last week we first told you about Elton Eugene Bryant who has been arrested 11 times since 2012 for trespassing at Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church at 4440 Piney Grove Road, off Highway 210 near the Harnett County line.
Today (Tuesday) marks 1,409 days Bryant has spent in the Johnston County Jail related to the 11 misdemeanor charges.
Members of Piney Grove Chapel initially declined to speak with WTSB News about our story. But after our article ran, Church Senior Pastor Timmy D. Blair Sr. released a written statement to us.
Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church has been ministering and caring for its community for over 60 years. 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. I want to thank the Johnston County Sheriff, his outstanding Deputies, the District Attorney’s Office, the Judges and those who provide security at our church for helping us feel safe in the midst of a difficult and most unusual situation.
Following one of Bryant’s arrests in 2013 he spent 467 consecutive days in the Johnston County Jail. In 2015, he served 326 days in jail before being released. Three days later he was rearrested for returning to the church once again.
No one knows what Bryant continues to go to Piney Grove Chapel. He reportedly lives about 2-1/2 miles away. He has allegedly made threatening phone calls to the church and made threats to some of the members, individuals he doesn’t even know.
Bryant was ordered by a court judge to undergo a psychological evaluation in 2012. Results of the evaluation were sealed.
He is set to go to trial on the 11th charge on March 20th.
Last week, Sheriff Steve Bizzell told WTSB News, “Every individual and church family has the right to assemble and worship freely and without fear. As Sheriff, I will continue to do everything within my authority to ensure this right is available to every person in our county.”
At an average cost of $50 per day to house an inmate, Bryant has cost Johnston County taxpayers $70,450 to date for his 1,409 days of incarceration.