'Pastor' and wife arrested after 'frightening' discovery of people locked in Griffin home, police say

Police have arrested a man and his wife after the discovery of multiple neglected people locked in an unlicensed "group home" in Griffin, Georgia.

Officials tell FOX 5 an investigation began after Griffin Fire responded to a report of a patient having a seizure at a so-called church on the 100 block of Valley Road on Jan. 13.

When they got to the location, fire crews and emergency medical services found the entrance to the basement was dead-bolted and they had to climb through a window to reach the patient.

Curtis Keith Bankston

Curtis Keith Bankston (Spalding County Sheriff's Office)

In the basement, authorities found as many as eight people who were mentally or physically disabled and had been "locked in" at times by their "caretakers," officials said.

According to investigators, Curtis Keith Bankston and Sophia Simms-Bankston had been leasing the home for around 14 months and had been operating the unlicensed facility under the appearance of a church called the One Step of Faith 2nd Chance.

After searching the location, officials say they found that Bankston, who claimed to be a pastor, and his wife were in control of the individuals' finances, benefits, and medications. Investigators claim the couple would deny the individuals their medication and medical care in some cases.

"It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust," the City of Griffin Police Department told FOX 5 in a statement.

All the individuals affected have now been placed by the Georgia Department of Human Services into suitable care and housing.

Bankston is now in custody in the Spalding County Jail charged with false imprisonment. 

On Thursday, authorities announced 56-year-old Sophia Simms-Bankston was also arrested on false imprisonment charges.


Sophia Simms-Bankston, 56, was arrested and charged with false imprisonment. (Griffin Police Department)

Authorities said other charges are possible for both in the near future.