Franklin officials finish search at Weigh Down Workshop

Detective not revealing purpose of police investigation

Franklin police investigators finished a two-day search of the Weigh Down Workshop headquarters in Cool Springs yesterday, but released few details of their investigation of the faith-based weight loss ministry.

The investigation began this week after detectives from Cobb County, Ga., asked Franklin police for help in their investigation into the death of an 8-year-old Georgia boy last October, said Franklin Deputy Chief Al Segal.

But Franklin police detective Rodney Escobar, the lead investigator in the case, would not say what his department was investigating or whether it was related to the homicide investigation. Escobar said his department would not participate directly in the homicide investigation because the death occurred outside the department’s jurisdiction.

Gwen Shamblin

Theologically, Gwen Shamblin’s ministries are considered cults of Christianity, due to their rejection of key doctrines of the Christian faith. Sociologically, Shamblin’s Remnant Fellowship has cultic characteristics as well.

Official site: Remnant Fellowship (not endorsed, nor recommended by ReligionNewsBlog.com)

Official Site: Weigh Down Workshop (not endorsed, nor recommended by ReligionNewsBlog.com)

Joseph and Sonya Smith were charged in December with felony murder, cruelty to a child and deprivation of a minor after the death of their son, Josef.

The child died after suffering a blow to the head and was a victim of chronic child abuse, according to Cobb County police detective David Schweizer.

Schweizer said Wednesday that he believed the death of the child could be linked to the ministry and to its affiliated Remnant Fellowship Church, of which the Smiths were members. Cobb County officials finished their search of the facility late Wednesday night.

The ministry has denied any wrongdoing and has supported the Smiths’ contention that the boy’s death was accidental.

Gwen Shamblin, the founder of the ministry and author of The Weigh Down Diet, was not at her headquarters yesterday, and only a few employees remained inside during the search, Segal said. The employees would not discuss the situation.

Attempts to reach Shamblin by phone at her office and at her home were unsuccessful. No one answered the door at her Brentwood home yesterday.

Segal said yesterday that it was too early for him to know what his department’s investigation would reveal, if anything.

Investigators spent about 14 hours Wednesday searching the facility and a nearby warehouse.

After spending about seven hours searching the ministry headquarters yesterday, police carried boxes and stuffed plastic bags out the front door and loaded them into a crime scene unit van. They declined to say what was removed.

”In this case we don’t know exactly where we are right now,” Segal said.

”We have a lot of information to decipher.”

Two Franklin police officers spent Wednesday night at the facility to make sure nothing was removed, Segal said.

By 3 p.m. yesterday, Segal announced that the search was complete and that Weigh Down was ”back in business.”

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