Montcalm County

Church vandal: 'Cult' graffiti not meant as threat

CARSON CITY, Mich. (WOOD) — Police reports and surveillance video show just how much damage vandals inflicted on the Church at Carson City and the homes of church leaders.

The vandalism led to allegations that the church was a cult and that leaders had covered up decades of sex crimes.

Video from the church's surveillance cameras first show the two suspects, a woman and her nephew, skulking around the property just before 11 p.m. on Halloween.

The grainy video shows one of the two spray-painting a message on the church. Later, it shows one of the vandals spray-painting messages on the church's van.

They painted words like “cult,” “lies,” “deceit,” “false shepard (sic),” “only Jesus saves” and “family killers.”

But they also painted obscene images and words that appeared threatening, like "boom" on a fuel tank, and "dead" on a window.

State police said the suspect, former church member Anna Morris, was identified by a relative who viewed the video.

The 54-year-old woman and a 14-year-old nephew confessed, but she told police the messages weren't meant as threats.

"I didn't write the words to be a threat to hurt anyone," she wrote. "I wanted them to think about how bad they hurt others and maybe they would know how wrong they are about the stuff they do and teach there."

Her nephew also wrote a confession.

"I tagged a local cult and some cult member houses on the night of Halloween. Tagging meaning spray painted words on different buildings," he wrote.

Other former church members told Target 8 they understood Morris's motives. Some responded by calling the church a cult, accusing leaders of breaking up families and covering up sexual assaults over the last 40 years.

"I feel like she was at her breaking point, and she did what she did because she'd had enough," said former member Jessica Moser.

Moser previously told Target 8 that a church leader knew that a church member had molested her repeatedly in the 1980s, but didn't tell police.

"I'm happy that it's coming out," said former member Elizabeth Cummings, Moser's sister, who said the church has broken up her family. "I'm happy the results of taking something negative and hopefully something positive will come of it."

A police report obtained by Target 8 show that leaders acknowledged that the church's late co-founder, Lee Sherman, molested children decades ago, and that it wasn't reported.

But church leaders have denied other allegations.

Morris is facing two felony counts and one misdemeanor count of property destruction. She's been ordered to stand trial. Her nephew was charged as a juvenile.


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