The media descended on the farm, looking for a story.
Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton live in a farmhouse in Hardin, Texas. In the early summer of 2011 they were away from home when they began getting calls from reporters asking for comment: Why were the police swarming all over their property?
It turns out someone had called police and claimed that there were dozens of dismembered dead bodies, including little children, buried in mass graves around their home, and police were searching for them.
The couple were a bit stunned.
They came home to find a trashed home as well as their reputation shattered. They were not serial killers, there were no dead bodies, and no arrests were made.
They sued the various news organizations who initially and erroneously reported that bodies had been found, and they also sued the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. The lawsuits against the media were dismissed, and they won a judgement against the police.
They also sued the person who called in the tip. For a while nobody could find her. All they knew was that she called herself "Angel."
And then they found their Angel.
Angel was a woman named Presley Gridley, who also goes by the name Rhonda. She lived 800 miles away in Stanton, Texas. She said she was a psychic and reverend and she was like the psychic Sylvia Browne. She called police and gave them the psychic tip that led to the police raid:
"These 32 souls are kids, and they said that’s where they were actually killed. They were sacrificed there … They said y’all would also find their bones there. They said their bones are like in the walls. Also if you’ll look with some kind of light or whatever, there’s stuff written all over the walls in blood."
Later, she said:
"I am a reverend. I am a prophet and I get my information from Jesus and the angels. I told them that I had 32 angels with me and they were giving me the information and then it went from there."
Ms. Gridley said that she’s received these visions all her life.
She may not be as comfortable with other planes of existence. She did not show up after she was served with multiple subpoenas, or for her deposition, or for her court appearance.
Presley "Rhonda" Gridley is
served her first subpoena.
After she was served her first subpoena, she wrote a letter to the court:
"To whom it may concern, I have no knowledge and I am not aware of any situation or circumstance that would require me to appear, or give a deposition.
Can you please explain why? Can you give me an explanation concerning the matter?"
When the case went to a bench trial, the judge made a ruling.
Perhaps he was influenced by the fact that she never showed up at court, or that her psychic visions flew in the face of a more rational, logical and legal view of the world, or that her statement caused real consequences to an innocent couple. Whatever it was, the Honorable Carl Ginsberg made the ruling that Ms. Gridley made false and defamatory statements about Joe Bankson and Gena Charlton.
Although there is little likelihood that Ms. Gridley can ever pay, the judge awarded the couple $6.8 million.
– ‘Psychic’ who reported mass grave north of Houston must pay $7 million, Houston Chronicle>>
– Angel the Psychic, Wrong About All Those Bodies at a Liberty County Farmhouse, Has Been Located and Sued, Dallas Observer Blogs>>
– Couple Suing Over False Reports of Mass Grave Say After Police Raid, They Came Home To a Trashed House and No Friends, Dallas Observer Blogs>>
A tip of the brain pan to Simon Scott for the find.