On July 25, 1998, I traveled to Fort Meyers, Florida. The purpose for this trip was to attempt to interview Mitch Whidden in Arcadia, Florida and also to check the background of Mitch Whidden. On July 26, 1998, I traveled to Brownville, Florida. Mitch Whidden is the Pastor of Brownville Baptist Church, which is located at 7015 NE US highway 17, Arcadia Florida.. I arrived at approximately 10:30 a.m. I observed that this was a very small, white church building. There were ten (10) cars in the parking area of the church. There was a lighted sign in front of the church, which appeared to be new.
On July 27, 1998, I
talked to Mr. Harry Murray, who is the Treasurer for Brownville
Baptist Church. Mr. Murray's telephone number is 941-993-3703. Mr.
Murray stated that Mitch Whidden was hired as Pastor of the church
on May 10, 1998. He first stated that Mitch had graduated from
Liberty Bible Institute. Later in our conversation, he said that it
was his understanding that Liberty Bible Institute had 'messed up'
on a couple of his credits and that Mitch thought he had -the
credits to graduate, but actually did not. Mr. Murray stated that
Mitch plans to finish these credits through a correspondence course.
Mr. Murray told me
that Mitch was licensed to preach by Liberty Bible Institute, but
was ordained by First Baptist Church of Ft. Ogden, Florida.
Mr. Murray stated that Charles D. Nelson of 3333 49th Avenue E, Baredenton, Florida had been the interim pastor of the church for thirteen months prior to the
hiring of Mitch
Whidden. Mr. Murray stated that the church has had several Pastors
during the time he has been a member of the church. Mr. Murray also
told me that Mitch Whidden has no other jobs. He stated that the
average number of congregation is 50 to 60 people. He stated that
the number of people attending church is seasonal and that during
the summer months, attendance is not as large as during the fall and
winter. Mr.. Murray also told me that Mitch Whidden's mother-in-law
is a member of the church. He stated that he understands that the
mother-in-law is divorced.
I also visited the
Arcadia First Baptist Church. The Pastor, Richard Englert, was away
on vacation during my visit. I spoke to the church secretary, Ms
Barbara Jones. She stated that Mitch Whidden had made at least three
visits to the First Baptist Church since becoming the Pastor of
Brownville Baptist Church. She stated that he wanted the help of
Richard Englert to 'get started.' She said that
On August 3, 1998, I
made contact with Richard Englert. He told me that due to Pastoral
confidentiality, he could tell me nothing about Mitch Whidden.
On July 27, 1998, I
spoke with a Mrs. Rholetter, who is the wife of Jimmy Rholetter, the
pastor of First Baptist Church of Ft. Ogden, Florida. Ft. Ogden,
Florida is a small community 17 miles south of Arcadia, Florida. Ft.
Ogden, Florida consists of a small general store, a fire station, a
toy shop, and three churches. These churches are - The Church of
God, United Methodist Church, and the First Baptist Church. These
churches are no more than 1/10 if a mile apart.
Mrs. Rholetter stated that they had been at the Ft. Ogden First Baptist Church for six years. She stated that she knew Mitch Whidden and that he had been ordained by her husband. Mrs. Rholetter stated that she knew that Mitch was in someway involved as a witness in a murder that had occurred in North Carolina. She stated that Mitch Whidden had talked to her husband about this situation. She stated that her husband had not told her about the details of the conversation which he had with Whidden. She stated that she knew Whidden had attended Liberty Bible
Institute, and at one
time came back to Arcadia, Fla. and stayed for about six months
before returning to Liberty Bible Institute. She did not know if he
had graduated from Liberty Bible Institute. I asked her about
Whidden's family and she stated that she thought Whidden's father
lived in Punta Gorda, Fla. At the end of our conversation, I said,
"I understand Mitch is a good person." Mrs. Rholetter responded by
saying, "I can't say anything bad about Mitch."
Mrs. Rholetter also
told me that her family was preparing to move. The address of the
Fort Ogden First Baptist Church is 9485 Picken Street, Ft. Ogden,
Florida 34267. The phone number is 941-494-2099.
After speaking with
Mrs. Rholetter, I returned to the Desoto County Court House. I went
to the county tax appraiser's office, where I learned that the
property located at 7015 NE US Highway 17, is owned by Brownville
I also located the
marriage license of Louie Mitchell Whidden, Jr. This license
indicated that Louie Mitchell Whidden, Jr. was married to Debra
Marie Bunn on October 24, 1992 in Ft. Ogden, Fla. Arthur T. Daniels
of Oak Hill Baptist Church located at Rt. 7. Box 243 Arcadia,
Florida was the minister, and Jennifer Lother and Jason A. Coker
were the witnesses. I also obtained a certified drivers's history of
Louie Mitchell Whidden, Jr. Among other charges, this history
indicates that Whidden was charged with careless driving and failing
to file a report of an accident on May 13, 1991. I have made a
written request to the Crash Records section of the Division of
Administrative Services for a copy of the accident report.
On July 28, 1998, I interviewed Jimmy Rholetter of Ft. Ogden First Baptist Church. My main objective in talking to Mr. Rholetter was to find out how Mitch Whidden was ordained. Mr. Rholetter confirmed that he was the pastor who ordained Mitch Whidden. Mr. Rholetter stated that when a church calls a person to be pastor of that church, that person may or may not be ordained. He said that if the church wants the person whom they have called to be ordained, the church must call the home church of the person in question. Mr. Rholetter stated that he ordained Whidden on May 17, 1998. He stated that Whidden was asked about his beliefs in Heaven and Hell, the Creation, and the Birth of Jesus Christ. He said that Whidden's beliefs must be consistent with those of the church. He stated that there was then a laying on of hands, and Whidden was ordained. I asked Mr. Rholetter is his church was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention; he stated that it was. When I asked him if Whidden's church was a member, he said
that Whidden's church
was a member of a county organization; the county organization was a
member of the state organization, and the state organization was a
member of the Southern Baptist Convention.
After Speaking with
Mr. Rholetter, I talked to Dr. Gary Baldwin of the First Baptist
Church of Ft Meyers, Florida. I explained to him how Whidden was
ordained. He stated to me that his ordainment consisted of much more
that this, but different churches had different processes for
ordainment. He stated that the state of Florida had no rules
pertaining to ordainment, nor the licensing of Pastors. Dr. Baldwin
told me that the person being ordained would have his ordainment
certificate and that the church where the ordainment occurred would
have minutes of the action kept by the church clerk.
On July 28, 1998, I attempted to make contact with Mitch Whidden by telephone. The telephone number I had for Louie M. Whidden was 941-494-4513. Upon calling this number, a female answered and identified herself as the Aunt of Mitch Whidden. She told me that she had been married to the brother of Louie M. Whidden, Sr. She stated to me that she did not know the whereabouts of either Whidden, Sr. or Whidden, Jr. I checked again with local information and was advised by the operator that the number for Louie M. Whidden, Jr in Arcadia, Florida was 941-494-4513. I then checked local information for any Whiddens in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, Fla. There was a listing for a M. Whidden in Port Charlotte which was 941-627-6299. Upon calling this number, I was informed by a female, answering the telephone, who said she did not know a Mitch Whidden.
Published August 15, 2006. Report broken links or other problems.
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