According to police, Curtis Keith Bankston allegedly imprisoned mentally and physically disabled people in his basement, while seizing control of their assets.
Authorities say Bankston held 8 patients against their will in a group home that was unlicensed and disguised as a faith-based ministry called ‘One Step of Faith 2nd Chance.’ Bankston, the owner of the church, used a deadbolt to lock his patients in the basement during certain hours of the day. Authorities also allege Bankston and his wife controlled the victims’ finances, medications, and public aid. Victims were often denied medications as well as medical care.
Police said in a post to their Facebook page, the patients were between the ages of 25 and 65 and all suffered from mental or physical disabilities.
The illegal group home was discovered on Jan. 13 when EMS workers and firefighters were called to the house to treat a resident who was having a seizure. According to authorities, first responders had to climb through a window to get to the patient because the door to the basement was double-key locked.
But Bankston’s attorney, Dexter Wimbush says all the allegations against his client are false.
“At no time was anybody held against their will,” said Wimbush during a press conference at Bankston’s home. “There was no kidnapping. There is no fraud here. This is simply a Christian man who was following his calling to help those who are in need. We cannot sit by and allow the ministry to be attacked.”
Wimbush also said residents were fed three times a day and that Bankston had a paper trail that would prove many of the patients had caretakers paid Banskton for room and board.
Attorneys make it clear to reporters that Bankston had the doors locked at 8 p.m. each night as a security precaution to keep mentally challenged patients from wandering off the premises.
“That is poor judgment, it is unfortunate, it is likely a violation of a local ordinance,” said Wimbush. “But it is not kidnapping, and it’s not false imprisonment. And that’s what the narrative is.”
Bankston’s group home program was registered with the state as a nonprofit in Aug 2020, but it was not licensed in compliance with local ordinances.
Local leaders in Griffen and the surrounding communities have called for the support of Bankston and his family and say they routinely feed the homeless in addition to running the group home for disabled residents.
“For me to hear the allegations against him, it disturbed my spirit because he’s worked with my church, he’s worked in my community and his character is beautiful,” said Curtis Carter, pastor of 1st True Faith Deliverance Church in Decatur.