Water touted as a tonic may make drinkers sick

Ohio prohibits sale of S.C. evangelist’s elixir

If evangelist Leroy Jenkins hands you a bottle of his so-called miracle water at his revival today through Sunday at the Charlotte Convention Center, you might want to think twice about letting it pass your lips.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has ordered him to quit distributing the stuff because it was found to have contained a bacteria that can make you sick.

Jenkins declined to talk to The Observer Thursday about the water he claims has special healing powers. June Buckingham, his secretary at the ministry office in Columbus, Ohio, wouldn’t say whether her boss plans to offer the water for a donation this weekend in Charlotte.

But Amber Ginyard, event coordinator at the convention center in uptown Charlotte, said her office was told by Jenkins’ office Thursday that they hope to offer the water.

“They said they always do it,” Ginyard said, noting that her office is unaware of the faith healer’s problems with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Convention center general manager Ted Lewis said he’ll wait to see a sample of the water for himself before deciding whether to allow it to be made available to Jenkins’ followers. The issue, he said, is whether Jenkins’ water competes with the center’s food and beverage offerings.

If you’re curious about all this, Jenkins is spending $7,500 to rent one exhibit hall at the convention center for a crusade at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Jenkins is hoping for a crowd of 2,000 at each service. It’s free, but donations are welcome, and Jenkins will be selling his books and other products.

The water is what’s at issue.

Melanie Wilt, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said Jenkins agreed in late July to quit distributing water bottled from a well on his former Healing Waters Cathedral property in Delaware, Ohio, after the state said it contained coliform bacteria. Coliform comes from human and animal waste. Wilt said a West Virginia woman who drank it in late 2001 took ill.

Following the court-ordered agreement, Wilt said her office began looking into whether Jenkins was violating the agreement after an ad was placed in a Columbus (Ohio) newspaper indicating “new miracle healing water” would be available at an upcoming service.

Told about possible plans to make water available in Charlotte, Wilt said her office notified federal and N.C. health officials.

So-called miracle water has long been a part of the controversial evangelist’s MO.

At a 1995 tent revival on North Tryon Street, Jenkins told followers that God told him in 1977 to drill a well 100 feet deep.

Then he asked the faithful to step right up for the fruits of his labor — 600 jugs of miracle water he was offering off the back of a truck, all donations welcome.

Evelyn Duncan, a 63-year-old retired housekeeper who had open heart surgery, paid $3 for her jug full of hope.

“I’m buying it to get healed,” she said. “I know it will.”

The miracle water isn’t the only head-turning part of the Leroy Jenkins story.

The native of Greenwood, S.C., served 5 1/2 years in S.C. prison after being convicted in 1979 of conspiring to burn the homes of a businessman who allegedly owed him money and a Highway Patrol trooper who arrested his daughter on a traffic charge.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Jenkins’ brief marriage to 76-year-old Eloise Thomas was annulled in 2001 after she was declared incompetent by a judge.

A member of Jenkins’ church, she had won $6.9 million years earlier in the Ohio lottery. She and Jenkins, now in his 60s (his office won’t say exactly), were married in Las Vegas nine days after her husband’s death.

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