RUTHERFORDTON — A former Word of Faith Fellowship member filed criminal charges Friday against WOFF founder Jane Whaley for an alleged assault in February 2002.
Lacy Wien, 19, claims that Whaley assaulted her when Whaley got upset about Wien’s desire to leave the controversial Spindale church and Wien’s wish to pursue a relationship with her now husband, Ruben Wien.
Ruben, a native of Sweden, is also a former WOFF member and helped Lacy get away from the church later in 2002. The two married in August 2002.
Whaley is charged with misdemeanor simple assault. Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department officials tried to serve the summons Friday, but were unable to locate Whaley.
C. Phillip Byers, chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Department, said church officials said Whaley was out of town on family business and would return this weekend.
A court date of Nov. 14 at 8:30 a.m. was set.
A phone call to the church office Friday afternoon was not answered.
Lacy Wien also has a civil suit against the church which names Whaley and multiple other church members as defendants.
Wien has testified about the alleged assault while on the stand for Shana Muse’s custody dispute with a couple in the church. Muse’s children were recently removed from the church and placed in the custody of the Rutherford County Department of Social Services after a judge ruled the church environment was abusive.
Wien said she has always wanted to bring these charges, but it has been a long process of regaining her confidence to do so. She said testifying in the Muse case was important.
“This is coming against a person who has ruled your life,” said Wien about Whaley. “You have to get un-brainwashed day by day.”
Wien, Muse and other former members have testified that the WOFF environment is highly controlled, abusive and set up in a hierarchy that reports up to Whaley.
The alleged assault took place on Feb. 24, 2002 in what Wien called “the holding room” at the church on Old Flynn Road in Spindale.
In the text of her civil suit and in testimony given in Muse’s case Wien described the event.
Wien said she had been called to the church for a blasting session. Blasting, or deliverance prayer, is a technique used by the WOFF in which anywhere from two to 25 people gather around a person and scream, yell or groan in loud tones in an attempt to exorcise demons.
Wien said that Lynn Millwood was in the room when Wien arrived and blocked the door to keep Wien from leaving.
The civil suit states that Millwood told Wien, “You’re not going anywhere. You’re going to get your spanking tonight.”
Wien was 18 years old at the time.
Wien told Millwood she wanted to leave the church a which time Millwood brought Whaley in.
Wien said Whaley became physical during a argument about Lacy’s desire to leave and continue a relationship with Ruben.
“She put her hands around my neck and pulled me up out of my chair,” testified Wien during the Muse case. “She was beating my head against a wall and yelling derogatory comments (like, ‘You’re a fornicator’). She laid me down on the table and held me there for the rest of the meeting.”
The suit states that Whaley lifted Wien out of the chair by her neck and put her on a table which was placed against the wall and “proceeded to violently bang the back of (Wien’s) head against the wall. (Wien) was dazed and (Whaley) pushed (Wien) down on the table with her legs hanging over the end of the table and together with (Millwood) tightly squeezed (Wien’s) shoulder and neck area while screaming to her about her lack of submission and her wickedness. (Wien) lost all feeling in her body due to the manner in which (Whaley and Millwood) had assaulted (Wien). (Whaley) then slung (Wien) off the table onto the floor where (Wien) was unable to move due to tingling and numbness in her legs.”
The suit states that Whaley then lectured her about the “evilness” of herself and Ruben Wien and told her Wien would not be allowed to leave the “meeting” until she denounced her love for Ruben Wien.
In a related matter, Wien was at the courthouse Friday for a charge she filed against Millwood in September. Wien charged Millwood with larceny of letters written between her and Ruben as well as jewelry.
The day before the alleged assault by Whaley, Wien asked what happen to those letters that Wien says were confiscated by Millwood.
Wien said Whaley told her, “We burnt them because they were so full of the unclean and harlotry.”
Those letters, however, resurfaced during Muse’s hearing last month.
Tom Hix used the letters in court in an attempt to discredit Wien as a witness.
Hix was the attorney for Kent and Brooke Covington, WOFF ministers who had cared for the Muse children from September 2002 until DSS took custody earlier this month.
The case against Millwood was postponed Friday, though negotiations were underway to possibly settle the case out of court. The letters were promised to be returned to Wien Monday. If they are, the charge against Millwood will be dropped.
Wien said those letters are very important to her and she wants them back.
“Those letters that he (Ruben) wrote to me made me feel confident for the first time in my life,” said Wien. “They made me feel like a woman, like a real person, and not a slave (to the WOFF).”
Wien filed the charges against Millwood on Sept. 12, four days after she had testified in the Muse case and saw the letters entered into the court record.