Minister faces more charges

Two followers of the Overcomer Ministry also Face criminal charges.

The Press and Standard/July 12, 2002
By Libby Roerig

Religious community leader Ralph G. Stair is facing additional charges and other ministry followers have been arrested in association with the improper burial and movement of a human body.

Currently being held without bond at the Colleton County Detention Center on criminal sexual conduct charges, Stair, 69, of the Overcomer Ministry in Canadys, was served with the charges of unlawful burying of a body without notice or inquiry and failure to get authorization for the removal of a dead body, according to the arrest warrants.

Two others, Dennis Mann Bush, 36, and David Maratto, 57, both also of Canadys, each face the same charges as Stair, according to the arrest warrants. Both were released on $10,000 personal recognizance bonds, according to Lt. Mike Brown of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

Bush and Maratto are accused of burying the body of infant Jonathan Bush sometime in Feb. 1994 without the authorization of the Colleton County Coroner, according to the arrest warrant. Additionally, police say they moved the body without authorization from authorities.

Though the preacher faces the same charges, Stair's warrant for the second charge says he "moved, or caused to (move), the body." At press time Thursday, Stair's bond had not been set for either charge, Brown said.

SLED exhumed the remains of the baby at the Overcomer Ministry's property on June 27. The body was autopsied, and the investigation into the cause of death concerning the baby is ongoing, according to SLED.

The self-proclaimed prophet preaches over AM and short-wave radio to a worldwide audience of followers and has an Internet-based ministry that crosses international lines. Stair's religious community, for which its residents must sell all their worldly possessions and sever ties with family members and friends before entering, is approximately 100-persons strong, according to reports.

Stair was facing two counts of breach of trust, but at the minister's July 2 preliminary hearing, Colleton County Chief Magistrate Richard Wood dismissed the charges. Though the state still has the option of direct indictment for these charges, Wood upheld and bound over to the grand jury the criminal sexual conduct charges.

Aside from these criminal charges facing Stair, the minister has also been confronted with allegations of neglect from family members of a recently deceased follower. An autopsy revealed former Overcomer Stanley Crawford Bean, 27, died of cerebral herniation on Tuesday, May 28, according to Chief Deputy Coroner Willard Long.

"I believe foul play is involved. He walks in there healthy and comes out on a stretcher," said George Bean, Stan Bean's father. "I really have the feeling myself that something was done to Stan to make him have a hemorrhage of the brain."

Teresa Stair, who is the minister's wife, explained that her church doesn't believe in medical care and Stan Bean wanted to die.

"He (Bean) wanted to go," she said in an earlier interview. "He really wanted to be with the Lord. He said, 'Sister Stair, I am so happy if I am going to be with the Lord.' ''

Stair will have the opportunity to file for another bond hearing at the next term of circuit court, which begins July 29.

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