She fell in love with Pastor Jack for his generous heart, not knowing it would …

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Voice-Over | 0 comments

He called himself a pastor when he showed up at her church. But he was nothing like any pastor Jenita Mickley had seen before. He was heavily tattooed, bearded and wearing a black T-shirt. He was an imposing man, solidly built, like a Friar Tuck who could handle himself in a street fight.

Over time, she would fall in love with the giving heart underneath that gruff exterior. She would come to believe that Moriarty was living out the tenets of Christianity rather than just talking about them.

She would realize later – too late – that Pastor Moriarty’s giving heart would also make him a target for those who would want to take advantage of it. She would see her husband’s giving heart get him killed.

She was working in the basement of Gila River Arena in Glendale counting the money collected by the concessionaires during the hockey game. A call came through. Pastor Jack had been shot. Two more calls followed in quick succession. Had she heard? Something happened to Pastor Jack.

“And I, like, was pacing in the hallway, just walking in circles,” she said. “Like, I guess, kind of in shock.”

Her boss told her to go, that she needed to be with her husband. But she didn’t know where to go, to the house or the hospital.

Fifteen minutes later, she got a call from the assistant pastor of Moriarty’s church, Redeemed Outreach Center. Jack was dead.

Jenita called a friend, who picked her up at the arena, and the two drove into the dark and desolate neighborhood just west of the state Capitol, where Redeemed Outreach is situated.

Paramedics declared Jack Moriarty dead at 9:02 p.m. inside his room at the house that served as the church’s headquarters.

Jenita would not be able to see him. The house was an active crime scene. Detectives swirled, taking photos, gathering evidence, looking for fingerprints.

Jenita went to a house down the block that the church also owned. It was the house where women church members stayed. She waited there while an officer came to interview her.

He asked her questions about Pastor Jack, about the home, about the church, about the last time she saw him, about their marriage.

Jenita told the officer the two had separated. That Pastor Jack moved into this home after they separated. And that the church makes its money partly by having members work concession stands at sports venues.

Jenita knew the officer was asking her these questions because he was trying to figure out who might want to see the pastor dead.

Jenita did not tell the officer why the two had separated. She didn’t tell him that her husband had started using drugs again. That he had slipped back into his old habits, the ones she – and he – thought he had defeated when he turned his life over to Jesus Christ.

Jenita first met Jack in 2006, when he and two other members of Set Free Ministries, a church that reached out to homeless men, came to Royal Palms Baptist Church, where she worshiped.

The men were pastors who had come to share testimony about their conversion to Christ. And to ask for money to continue their work with the homeless and addicted.

Jack gave his testimony to the Royal Palm congregation that day. It was a story Jenita would get to know well.

Jack Moriarty was living in New York, the product of a tumultuous childhood. He started drinking at the age of 12. He was in trouble with the law a lot. Some drug use and some alcohol-fueled bad behavior. According to his story, authorities there asked him to leave the state. He came to Arizona.

He lived in Mesa and fell into trouble again, landing in jail in 2003 after pleading guilty to selling stolen items to fuel his drug habit. It was there that he heard about Set Free Ministries, a place that helped ex-cons and addicts.

On his release in August 2004, he grabbed a bus. The bus stopped right across the street from Set Free. He figured he might as well go in. He did, the story goes, and turned his life around.

Jenita, a divorced mother of four, found the man compelling.

“There was just something about Jack that drew me to him,” she said. “I wanted to get to know him better.”

Set Free set up a charity car wash at the Royal Palms church parking lot and Jenita would take her car in every few weeks to have it washed. While she waited, she would talk to Pastor Jack.

“We built up a friendship,” she said. More than two years after they first met, he asked her out.

Their first date was at an Italian restaurant. “We sat there and played 1,000 Questions,” she said, “asking each other about backgrounds and upbringings.”

She told him about growing up in a close-knit religious family. Church played a major role. “I was born on a Sunday and enrolled in Sunday school the following week,” she said.

They agreed on a second date that Saturday.

Pastor Jack planned it to be on his turf. It started at noon with a wedding at the Set Free Ministry in east Phoenix. They stayed for the reception. Then stayed for the early evening service. Followed by a dinner. It ended with an evening visit to the other church where Moriarty worked, the Redeemed Outreach Center.

Moriarty had discovered Redeemed while performing street ministry in the neighborhood, which hosted the shelters and soup kitchens for the homeless.  He happened upon an evening service held in front of a dilapidated home. He returned often and got to know the pastor, Jerry Savocchio, who started the church.

This was not a Sunday-only church. Redeemed Outreach functioned as part rehab center and part shelter. And this was where Moriarty, around 11 p.m., chose to take his date.

Jenita had driven through the area before. But, even in the daylight, she hadn’t really seen it, keeping on psychological blinders to the blight.

“For about 3 seconds, I got scared,” Jenita said. “And then I thought, ‘Wait. I’m in this truck, this big old white truck. I got this big guy sitting next to me and I have God on my side. What do I have to be afraid of?’ ”

Jack Moriarty drove to the front of the church, just off Jefferson Street. He got out of the truck. Jenita did the same. And from her post behind Pastor Jack, she got introduced to people whom she otherwise might have avoided.

The next weekend, she started attending the Saturday evening church services at Redeemed Outreach.

“He brought me into this world,” she said. “I dove in with both feet.”

That world was all-encompassing. Each day had activities to occupy the mostly male residents – “disciples” as Moriarty called them. There were church services, Bible studies, addiction counseling and twice-weekly walks through the area to talk to those living on the street.

In 2009, Savocchio asked Moriarty to take over Redeemed Outreach. Moriarty continued his work with Set Free.

Moriarty started a 5 a.m. “breakfast club” at Redeemed Outreach. Moriarty offered coffee and some oatmeal or fruit or muffins. Whatever he could get donated.

There was no preaching at the breakfast, just goodwill. And if someone were in need, Moriarty would try to get that person clothes or shoes, or tell them about the program he ran at Redeemed Outreach that could turn their life around.

Moriarty knew some people would come in right away. For others, it was enough to hope the message and the name of the center sank in. For when they were ready.

LeeAnn Jones was ready after she checked into a hospital to end a binge of alcohol and methamphetamine. She said she weighed 74 pounds. The hospital was set to release her, she said, but couldn’t without a place to send her. Jones remembered the Redeemed Outreach program and said she would go there.

Jones said Moriarty told her she would get better. He told her she would be healthy again.

“He found me worthy of a healing,” she said.

Since that day in 2009, Jones said, she has remained sober.

She found work through the church and eventually became the office manager, writing checks and tracking receipts.

“I am a new creation in Christ Jesus,” she said.

As the church expanded, it needed more room for disciples. Moriarty found rental homes in another run-down neighborhood west of the Capitol. One was two buildings joined by a shared patio. Moriarty made that the “women’s house.” A three-bedroom home down the road was designated for couples.

The original home on Jefferson, built to house five or six, accommodated increasing numbers of single men. In two rooms, Moriarty put in rows of bunk beds, resembling a military-style barracks. Another room had sleeping bags on the floor.

On one Sunday, Jack Moriarty told Jenita he was going to preach at her church, Royal Palms. The pews were packed, as members of Set Free and Redeemed Outreach came along to watch. In his sermon, Moriarty started talking about Jenita. He called her up to the front of the church. He got down on a knee and proposed. She said yes.

At the wedding on Aug. 13, 2009, Jack gave testimony again, telling of his rough childhood and journey to jail.  He added a coda. Jenita remembered that he said: “This is the best thing that has ever happened to me and only God could bring this into my life.”

They settled into a rental home in north Phoenix. Jack did not draw a salary as a pastor. But the church paid his rent. It also paid vehicle expenses. When Jenita needed a car, she said, Jack bought her a 1987 Corvette using church funds.

Money came to the church through “program fees.” Residents would pay monthly fees that covered the cost of their bed, meals and the treatment program.

Some earned their keep by working at concession stands. Moriarty signed both Redeemed Outreach and Set Free Ministries up to be partners with a national charity called Canning Hunger that contracted them to work stands at sports arenas.

The arrangement with the church ensured the concessionaires a steady supply of labor. And it gave the church a steady stream of income. According to tax records, Redeemed Outreach took in more than $416,000 in 2012. That meant each month, the church handled roughly $34,500 in funds.

Most of those funds were handled personally by Moriarty.

Jenita remembered him toting home large sums, especially during the Christmas season. The church would run tree lots and Moriarty would make evening collections.

Typically, she said, he would keep the cash somewhere in the bedroom.

Moriarty felt he had amounted to something, Jenita said. He had gone from being an addict to running one church and directing the work ministry of another. He wanted more than anything for his mother to see his success.

He had plans to bring her out to Phoenix, Jenita said. But, her health turned. In January 2011, before she could make the trip, she passed away.

“It was very heartbreaking for him,” Jenita said.

He sank into depression and returned to his drug of choice: crack cocaine.

To get it, Moriarty drove into a neighborhood about a mile south of Redeemed Outreach church. His quest for crack that night would end in a fateful brush with notoriety.

Moriarty parked his truck along the street. He had a passenger, a skinny woman with close-cropped hair who would later tell authorities she was going to help procure the drug. A man on a bicycle approached the passenger door. It was enough to draw notice of the occupants of a passing vehicle from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, particularly from a recently deputized posse member, the action film star Steven Seagal.

Seagal was riding around with a squad of deputies and a camera crew filming the third season of his reality-television show, “Steven Seagal: Lawman.”

“This looks suspicious to me,” Seagal said, according to footage recorded for the show.

The sheriff’s vehicle approached the back of Moriarty’s white pickup truck with its sirens blaring and lights flashing. In footage from the show, headlights from the vehicle lit the sticker on the back window of the truck. Seagal read it aloud in a quizzical voice: “Trained to serve Jesus.”

Moriarty was ordered out of the truck and searched. A deputy said Moriarty smelled of alcohol. In the seat of the truck, deputies found a pipe used for smoking crack.

“I am a pastor, OK, and I came down here and I’m not doing good,” Moriarty said, according to the footage.

In a voiceover narration, the arresting deputy said that Moriarty was “definitely under the influence of something,” but not too impaired to drive.

“So he gets to walk away,” he said.

And because deputies found no drug residue on the crack pipe, he wasn’t charged with its possession.

Before Moriarty left, Seagal gave him some advice. “Put your mind in the future,” Seagal told him, “and don’t make the same mistakes.”

At home, Moriarty told Jenita what happened.

He said that he was asked to sign a piece of paper. He didn’t quite understand what he was signing, he said, but he understood that if he signed the paper, he would not be arrested.

Producers with the show secured a release from Moriarty, allowing his face to be on the show. A Sheriff’s Office spokesman said that no deals were made to get people to sign releases and that Moriarty’s traffic stop was nothing out of the ordinary.

AE, the network that owned the Seagal show, was set to air the third season in January 2012. But it never did. Moriarty appeared to have dodged both an arrest and any publicity.

Moriarty stayed straight, as far as Jenita knew, until June 2013, when she found a crack pipe in their bed.

The board at Set Free Ministries sent him to California for rehabilitation with a pastor there. “And it seemed to work,” Jenita said.

Then, in January 2014, the Reelz network, which had bought the third season of “Steven Seagal: Lawman” from AE, began airing the episodes. One included Moriarty’s arrest.

The board of Set Free Ministries asked Moriarty to resign.

Moriarty complied, but he got depressed and started disappearing at night. Jenita figured he was out drinking.

One night, fearing his own suicidal thoughts, he checked into a hospital. When Jenita visited him, he confessed that he was back on drugs.

At that point, she had enough. She didn’t want her children to be around that environment. “I couldn’t have that in my life,” she said.

Jenita moved out of the house. Moriarty responded by driving out to the same neighborhood where he had been stopped by Seagal in 2011. Deputies saw him make what appeared to be a drug deal and pulled him over. They found crack cocaine in his pocket. This time, he would not escape arrest.

He pleaded guilty to a count of having drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Following that lapse, having lost one of his ministries and his wife, Moriarty rededicated himself to Redeemed Outreach. He added new members to the board who had national reach. He reached out to other street ministries to forge relationships.

He also tried to repair his relationship with his wife. She moved to another home in north Phoenix. He moved into what then became the church leaders’ house on West Monroe.

In February, the two met for what would be their last breakfast together. Moriarty vowed that he had been clean for the past few months. As a Valentine’s Day gift, he gave her a handful of drug tests and told her she could test him anytime she wanted.

“He wouldn’t do that if he was still using,” Jenita said. “Because he knew that this was his last chance.”

On the evening of Feb. 27, Moriarty was in his bedroom. It was a Friday, the day he collected fees from his members. The front door to the house was always left unlocked so people could drop in.

What authorities believe happened is detailed in police reports and charging documents.

Two men entered the house and headed straight for Moriarty’s back bedroom. They knew what they were after and knew where it was stashed.

Inside the home, in their bedrooms, were William Potter, a church employee, and LeeAnn Jones, the addict who became the office manager.

Jones told police she heard loud arguing. Potter said he heard a gunshot. He told police he opened his door and  saw two men, one of whom had a shotgun and appeared to be wearing a wig. Potter quickly closed his door, but the men forced it open. One of them used the butt of the shotgun to hit Potter in the head, he told police.

The two men took Potter’s cellphone and money clip.

In the meantime, Jones had left her bedroom, along with a pet pit bull, and hid in a dark bedroom that belonged to an associate pastor who wasn’t home. There, she called 911.

The two men left the house and got into a tan car that was parked out front. Police arrived about 20 minutes later and found Moriarty’s body in his bedroom. Women from the church were standing over it singing hymns.

Police would find a stack of money — presumably the aim of the robbery — in a dresser in Moriarty’s bedroom. The amount was not disclosed in the police report.

Over the next few days, police would arrest the two they suspected of being the gunmen: Jesse Monroy and Jaime Sapien. Sapien told police the two were driven there by a third person. Police would arrest Nichole Coble a few weeks later.

Sapien told police that Coble planned the caper, that she described the layout of the house and warned them about the pit bull.

Savocchio, who has since retaken control of Redeemed Outreach, said Moriarty had let Coble live in the house in December 2014, but had kicked her out because he suspected she was trying to skim credit-card information.

Jenita Moriarty felt elated when the first suspect was arrested. Then, she said, she emotionally crashed when she realized what her belief system required.

“I’m Christian,” she said. “I’m going to have to forgive this guy.”

Jenita said it shook her that the robbery was apparently planned by someone who benefited from Moriarty’s ministry.   But, she said, her husband felt a calling to minister to this population.

“These are – I hate to say it – but the dregs of society,” she said. “If Jesus were here today, that’s where he’d be.”

In November, she sat in the first row of a Maricopa County Superior courtroom for a pretrial hearing for the trio of suspects.

Coble’s face held a frozen scowl.

Monroy and Sapien sat with other male inmates in the jury box of the courtroom. Sapien was seated directly in front of Monroy. The two talked and laughed.

The hearing lasted about 10 minutes. It mainly concerned scheduling another hearing. The judge set a date for Jan. 6.

No one else from the church attended.

The morning court hearings tax Jenita’s stamina. She works three part-time jobs, including an overnight shift at a convenience store.

On some mornings, following her graveyard shift, Jenita said she will drive by the Redeemed Outreach Center on Jefferson Street, the building Pastor Jack drove her to on their second date. “It’s hard to not drive by the house and see what is going on,” she said.

Usually, she catches the breakfast ministry. She’ll observe the people, bundled up whether it is winter or summer, getting coffee and fruit or some oatmeal, a rare gesture of kindness in their rough lives.

But she doesn’t get out. She doesn’t mingle. She drives away north to her side of town.

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