ANGIER – Around 9:30am Sunday, Elton Eugene Bryant was spotted walking down Piney Grove Road near Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church. When he stepped into the church parking lot an off-duty deputy sheriff working security approached the 54 year-old man and asked why he was there. Bryant reportedly said he was there to go to church. When he refused to leave he was arrested for trespassing. Sunday’s incident marked the 15th time since April 2012 Bryant has been arrested for trespassing at the same church off Highway 210 near the Johnston-Harnett County line.
Bryant was jailed Sunday morning on a $2,500 bond at the Johnston County Jail. After each arrest Bryant has never tried to post bail. Since 2012, Bryant has spent more than half of his life behind bars awaiting trial or serving out his sentence on trespassing charges at Piney Grove Church.
Bryant was convicted in June 2019 for his fourteenth trespassing offense which also included a felony stalking charge. The stalking victim was church pastor Timmy Blair. A judge gave Bryant an active prison sentence and was released in October 2020.
Each time a judge orders Bryant not to return to the church but he does so anyway. Following one conviction a judge ordered Bryant to undergo a mental health evaluation. The results of the evaluation are not public record.
No one knows why Bryant continues to return to the church, which is about 2.5 miles away from his home. Each time he walks to the church and is arrested.
Johnston County Report reached out Wednesday to Piney Grove Church for a comment. As of our news deadline on Friday we did not received a response.
Sheriff Steve Bizzell told Johnston County Report, “It’s sad that the members and visitors at Piney Grove Church cannot come together and worship without fearing that Elton Eugene Bryant is going to show up again to disrupt services. It’s unfortunate that the church leadership has had to hire a deputy sheriff to attend their services in order to feel safe in God’s house.”
In 2017, Pastor Blair released a statement to us following one of Bryant’s arrests 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 remains in the Johnston County Jail awaiting a January 25, 2021 trial date for the 15th offense.