The very best preachers are consummate showmen, able to sell you on the sincerity of their message with the utmost aplomb.
49-year-old David Keith Allen, former pastor at the New Life Church of Restoration just east of Gatesville, sounds like a hell of a performer. In the wee hours of one morning last March, the double-wide trailer he shared with his 54-year-old wife Paula Allen became suddenly engulfed in flames. After the fire was extinguished, Paula Allen's body was found near the front door. A coroner ruled that she died of both smoke inhalation and thermal burns.
Before the grisly discovery of Paula's charred remains, her husband was preaching his innocence to all who would listen, the whole hellish congregation bathed in the dancing red lights of the fire trucks and orange glare of the fire and suffused with the aroma of death and burnt plastic....
His face covered in soot and streaked with tears, the good reverend told investigators that he had been sleeping in the living room when the fire broke out. He said he kicked out some windows and jumped out of the trailer, and then ran around the back to try to pull his sleeping wife out of the back bedroom. Alas, he had been overcome by smoke, but he did not require medical attention.
After the Reverend Allen called out the fire department, word of the blaze spread almost as fast as the inferno itself.
An elder at New Life church told Waco's KXXV that several members of Allen's flock drove out to the scene to comfort their hysterical pastor.
"When I got here, David was kneeling in the grass over there in his agony in his loss and in hope that we would find his wife," the elder said. "He was on the ground with a blanket and kind of on his knees and his elbows crying, you know, just crying out," recalled another New Life parishioner.
Another family friend apparently was too choked up to talk about the pastor's loss. "Having to see David go through what he's going through, he, he is a strong man, but...," the friend told KCEN-TV.
Allen had better be a strong man, because he's now facing a capital murder rap in the Coryell County Jail. Police say he intentionally set and used an accelerant to abet the fire that burned and choked his wife of nearly 20 years to death.
Since arson was committed along with an alleged murder, it is being prosecuted as a capital offense, and thus no bond has been set.
The town rallied around Allen in the weeks following the fire. A benefit was held for the pastor this past April Fool's Day, aptly enough, and it raised $6,000, which well-wishers proudly handed over to Allen.
Not long after that, however, suspicions started to descend upon the preacher, apparently in no small part due to his involvement with 27-year-old Megan Lynn Griffith, a former singer in the church choir rumored to be pregnant with Allen's baby. In June, Coryell County Sheriff Johnny Burks announced that both his office and the Texas Rangers were investigating Allen and the fire.
Yesterday, KWTX broke the news that Allen married Griffith at some point in the last week or so.
He would not get to honeymoon for long.
Allen stepped down from the pulpit at New Life before his arrest and has started a small church called Final Victory Ministry, which holds services in the Gatesville Ramada Inn.
Here's a sample sermon:
New Life Church has since changed its name to the Crossroads House of Prayer.