Tennessee Pastor Busted as Possible Burglar by Parishioner

Pastor Charged With Aggravated Burglary

Pastor Rickey Alan Reed, 55, of First Free Methodist Church is seen in this undated booking photo for trying to steal prescription painkillers from a parishioner. (Photo courtesy: Smyrna Police Department)

A Tennessee woman set up a surveillance camera in hopes of catching the thief that had been stealing prescription painkillers from her home. And she did. But she was shocked at the person she caught fiddling at a door to her home: her own pastor.

Jean Harris, of Smyrna, Tenn., was prescribed painkillers for a shoulder injury. When pills disappeared from her weekly pill planner and an entire bottle went missing, she questioned family and friends who had access to her house, according to The Tennessean, but the pills never turned up.

So she set up a surveillance camera pointed at a side entrance to her house. She couldn’t believe when the camera captured Rickey Alan Reed, 55, pastor of the First Free Methodist Church, where Harris had been attending church for 55 years.

The video showed a nervous looking Reed attempting to enter the house.

“You see that he comes up, taps on the door, and looks around, possibly to see if anyone else was there,” said Sgt. Bobby Gibson, Smyrna Police Department Public Information Officer. “He taps on the window lightly, but he doesn’t waste a lot of time before trying to make access to the lock.”

While the act of manipulating the lock could not be seen in the video, it appeared and sounded as though Reed tried to use a credit card to unlock the door. But Harris had increased her security since the last time she was robbed, adding a dead-bolt lock, bars on her window and a chain on the door.

“He appeared somewhat visibly frustrated and that’s when he left,” Gibson said.

After watching the video, Harris didn’t know what to do.

“I took me a week and a half of prayer,” Harris told The Tennessean. “But if I didn’t [turn him in], he was going to keep doing this.”

She called the police and Reed was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary. He is currently free on bond, but police suspect he may have had other victims.

“From what we understand, he knew when people would be at the church,” Gibson said. “That’s when he would go.”

Police believe there may be as many as five other victims, but Gibson said parishioners have been reluctant to report their pastor.

“They were somewhat hesitant as far as coming forward,” Gibson said. “Part of that was they don’t want to bring anything negative to the church and they might not have been confident that anything would be done against him.”

The church did not respond to requests for comment.

“People seek their pastor for spiritual guidance,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot of trust placed into a pastor and, sadly, he betrayed that trust.”

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