Pastor: Con-man hustled church congregation with fake sob story
Dalton, GA (WGCL) -- Who wouldn't feel sorry for a man that stands in front of you, nearly in tears, and talks about how his wife died eight months ago during labor, his mother just died, and now he is a single father raising a newborn all alone.
Well, some of the very generous and God loving people of Salem Baptist Church in Dalton, Georgia did fall for the made-up tale of woe and despair.
Many felt compelled to give a little money to the man who identified himself as a Donald Ray Pitts. Pitts appeared out of the blue during their Sunday service on Aug. 3.
Pitts is not a member of that church and the way he entered the lives of the more than 350 people in the packed pews at the end of the evening service was nothing short of odd. In fact, it took a lot of people off guard.
"It was just easy for him to prey on our congregation because the size," Pastor Noel Caldwell said. "It gives him some anonymity. And he had it. We thought he might have been a part of us."
Caldwell said he entered the church with a purpose and acted like he was a member.
"He walked in the side door, which was odd," Caldwell said. "He walked in front of everyone and went right towards the altar and started praying. One of our pastor's went and knelt beside him to pray as well. Then he asked if he could address the congregation, and asked for prayers."
"He told us a story that his wife had passed away during child birth six months ago and within the last couple of days his mother that lived in Houston, Texas had passed away as well. And he said he was on his way to her funeral that night," Caldwell continued.
A video of Pitts addressing the congregation starts with Pitts cracking a joke.
"Ya'll look like a bigger crowd from up here," Pitts said, followed by laughter from the church members.
The video shows Pitts point to a woman he claimed was his sister, and her 2-year-old daughter. He then talked about how she was helping raise his infant daughter.
"That is my daughter April. She was born Jan. 2, and her mother passed away during her birth," Pitts said. "I have been a single father for six months and it has been extremely difficult obstacle to overcome and I still haven't overcome it."
"You look at that on the surface and you think this guy is desperate we gotta do something to help him," Caldwell said.
Caldwell realized Pitts was a fraud because three days later at three different churches in the area, he told the same story.
"He didn't rush to Houston to bury his mom," Caldwell said.
The Whitfield County Sheriff's Office is looking into the story. Caldwell said he knows of at least five other churches in the area that Pitts spoke in front of.
Caldwell said it will be difficult to press charges just because the man is a liar. He never asked for money to fraud people, but alluded to money as a necessity Caldwell said.
"Pray for us as we travel tonight," Pitts said. "God blessed us with $50 and a tank of gas. And I can't be more blessed than that. I have a strong faith The Lord is going to get me where I need to be."
Pitts closed by saying he looked forward to coming back to the church to join the congregation after his mother's funeral.
Caldwell said he is not angry, he is just having a tough time dealing with the deception that happened in the house of God.
"It almost makes you think he could be some sociopath or something. For someone who could do something like that, knowing there are people probably in the room with him that have worse needs than he does and prey on the goodness of these folks," Caldwell said. "To go in and rob a church and that basically is what he was doing, it was deceptive. Did he hold us at gunpoint? No. But, he got a hold of our hearts and to me that is even a worse kind of crime."