A call for medical assistance last week led authorities in Griffin, Georgia, to a disturbing scene. When first responders had to break a window to reach a patient having a seizure, they discovered at least eight people “essentially imprisoned” in the basement. Curtis Bankston, 55, was charged with false imprisonment, and additional charges are pending. His wife, 56-year-old Sophia Simm-Bankston, also is expected to face charges.
False Imprisonment: What Authorities Found at the Home
When police executed a search warrant, they found eight people between ages 23 and 65, all of whom had mental or physical disabilities. Investigators say the Bankstons had been leasing the property for 14 months and were operating an unlicensed group home.
The Bankstons allegedly controlled the finances, benefits, and medications of the residents—and sometimes withheld medicine and health care. Residents were “locked in” at times, police say, and unable to exit in case of emergency.
In a statement, the Griffin Police Department says, “It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust.” It adds, “The home was in disarray and not conducive to clean and sanitary living conditions.”
The state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) has found “suitable care and housing” for all the disabled residents. Five of the individuals are wards of the state. DHS is conducting its own investigation into the facility, focusing on “potential abuse and neglect,” police say.
False Imprisonment: Who Is Curtis Bankston?
According to reports, Curtis Bankston claims to be a pastor and runs the group home as One Step of Faith 2nd Chance, an extension of his church. In his bio on the church website, Bankston is described as “a biblical scholar and arguably one of the greatest visionaries and orators of this generation.” The bio mentions a business degree but no theological training for Curtis. Sophia Bankston is identified as “a great visionary” who “launched an outreach foundation that helps the less fortunate.”