Deeper Life: A history

Tampa Tribune/September 20, 2003

SEPTEMBER 1980: Melvin B. Jefferson files papers with the state establishing Deeper Life Soul Winners Church Inc. on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa, listing himself and his first wife, Tracy, as officers.

JUNE 1992: The church incorporates at 3300 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, under the name Deeper Life Christian Church, with Melvin and Brenda Jefferson as officers. Records show each was then married to someone else.

JANUARY 1994: The church registers the name House of David Help Center Inc. with the state, listing as officers Melvin and Tracy Jefferson and Brenda Lanier.

JANUARY 1996: Melvin Jefferson and Brenda Lanier marry in Las Vegas; both certify under oath they have not been married before.

NOVEMBER: Melvin Jefferson says Deeper Life has 300 members and supports itself by selling peanuts and used tires, and by running a corner grocery.

DECEMBER 1997: Five Deeper Life members are charged with trafficking in food stamps and dealing in stolen property after an undercover investigation unearths a $20,000-a-month fraud scheme. Within days, Melvin Jefferson and Brenda Lanier initiate divorces in Georgia against their respective first spouses.

JANUARY 1998: Melvin Jefferson and Brenda Lanier are arrested in the food stamp case.

JUNE: Church member Valeria Williams of Tampa dies in a van accident on a fundraising trip near Jacksonville. Church member Annie Mae Brown dies of complications from her injuries two weeks later.

AUGUST: Melvin Jefferson and Brenda Lanier remarry in Las Vegas, days after securing default divorces against their first spouses.

JUNE 1999: As part of a plea deal, Deeper Life Christian Church is convicted of food stamp fraud, put on probation and fined $5,000. Five men - Edward Don Jefferson, Calvin Lanier Jr., Cary Keith Fulks, Kenneth Lee and Steve Lavon Lee - are sentenced to probation. The charges against Melvin and Brenda Jefferson are dropped.

JULY: A van carrying four Deeper Life members returning from a fundraising trip to Gainesville overturns on I-75 near Ocala. Albert Jerome Chambliss, 32, is killed.

NOVEMBER 2002: Armed robbers break into Melvin Jefferson's home in Brandon. Police make no arrests.

JANUARY 2003: Church pastor Willie Bryant Jr. is killed at a church-owned tire shop during a robbery.

JUNE: Church member Solomon Bostick, 14, dies in a van accident.

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