Chastain Crime

Updated
05-06-11


Unfortunately, Chastains are not immune to crime. The extended family includes both criminals and victims. This is not a place to embarrass those who have been caught up in common brushes with the law; rather Chastain Crime contains stories of notorious, high-profile criminal activity. See also Chastain Crime Fighters.

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He Was a Preacher, a Serial Arsonist, and a Wife Killer

Wheeling and Dealing, Suicide, Burial, and Exhumation

A Calculated Rape and Murder Pushes Indiana to Bring Back the Death Penalty

Suspicions of Conspiracy Swirl Around Martin Luther King's Assassination

Militia Member Threatens to Kill Attorney General Janet Reno

A City Arrays All Its Force Against a Crippled Hero and His Bicycle


He Was a Preacher, a Serial Arsonist, and a Wife Killer

Before he became a preacher, James Pierre Chastain murdered his first wife. No one suspected him until after he became a preacher and tried to murder his second wife.

Rev. James Pierre Chastain June 20, 1957- . James was born in Japan, where his father was serving in the air force. In 1974, he moved with his family to Moultrie, Georgia. The next year, James married Theresa Gail Barfield and they had two children. On June 18, 1979, James was miffed at his wife. When she was sedated and asleep, he set the trailer afire with Theresa in it. It was ruled accidental, and Theresa's death was not considered suspicious.

A few years later, James had a religious experience and became a Methodist minister. He pastored a number of small churches and married Louanne Childres, also a Methodist minister. On occasion, Louanne felt that James was trying to kill her. Then, in 1989, she discovered a bizarre note in his pants pocket called "Plans for Robbery and Murder"--her murder!

He had already executed the first part, which was the burglary and burning of her brother's house. James was arrested for arson, and during the investigation the special agent pressed James about his first wife's death until he wrote a confession. He was arrested for murder, convicted by a jury, and sentenced to life imprisonment. --From John Glatt, For I have Sinned, True Stories of Clergy Who Kill, St. Martins, 1998.

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Wheeling and Dealing, Suicide, Burial, and Exhumation

Robert Lewis Chastain hung out with the rich and famous. He and his partner chased after the 'big deals", and the feds thought some of their activity was questionable. Was Robert Lewis Chastain's death in Europe a suicide or something much more sinister?

Robert Lewis Chastain 1950-1989. Robert Chastain was born in Missouri. He graduated high school in 1968 and in 1979 met Richard M. Hirschfeld during a business deal. The two became partners. During the 1980s, they pursued sometimes shady business deals and mixed with the rich and famous. In 1987, they approached deposed Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos to help him in his planned invasion to retake his former country by force. Chastain posed as an arms dealer ready to provide Marcos with tanks, anti-aircraft weapons, M-16s, mortars, and grenade launchers. Instead, they recorded the discussions and turned copies of the tapes over to U.S. authorities. The invasion was thwarted and the Philippinos expressed deep gratitude to Hirschfeld and Chastain. However, the tapes also contained information embarrassing to the Reagan administration. The tapes were not made public, but Robert Chastain told reporters that Marcos gave $12 million in illegal contributions to the Reagan campaign.

Due to some tax shenanigans, Chastain and Hirschfeld were under investigation by federal authorities when Chastain died December 17, 1989 at the Vienna Hilton in Austria of apparent suicide by barbiturate overdose. He was 39. But the feds were suspicious that Hirschfeld was beneficiary to Chastain's $5 million life insurance policy and that Chastain died just two weeks after the suicide exclusion lapsed. Hirschfeld was sentenced in 1991 to six years in prison and fined $460,000 for conspiracy and tax evasion. The question arose as to whether the body in Robert Chastain's Purdy, Missouri grave was really his. Prosecutors suggested Chastain was still alive and would split the $5 million with his partner. A Norfolk, Virginia federal judge ordered the body exhumed in October 1984. The autopsy determined that it was Robert Chastain after all. Then the Chastain family sued for $1.5 million dollars claiming that the exhumation and autopsy were against Missouri law. Meanwhile, Hirschfeld fled to Spain and was a federal fugitive for almost nine years until he was found and arrested at his Ft. Lauderdale mansion in 1994. On January 11, 2005, while awaiting another trial, Richard M. Hirschfeld hanged himself in the laundry room of a Miami prison.

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A Calculated Rape and Murder Pushes Indiana to Bring Back the Death Penalty

Terry Lee Chasteen and her children fell victim to rapist and murderer Steven Judy. The case was so horrifying that is swayed Indiana to perform their first execution in 20 years.

Terry Lee Chasteen. On April 28, 1979 Terry was taking her three children to the baby sitter on the way to work. Along the way, she was waved over by the driver of a construction truck. He told her that her car was having problems, and he opened up the hood. Unknown to Terry, he disconnected the coil wire so the engine would not start. Finally, he offered her and the kids a ride, but rather than helping them, he raped and killed Terry and drowned her children. Terry Lee was 23. Her children were Misty (5), Mark (4), and Steven (2).

The murderer was Steven Timothy Judy, 24. His was the first execution in Indiana in 20 years, and his case was prominent in the debate on capital punishment. Considerable additional detail is available by searching "Terry Lee Chasteen" or "Steven Timothy Judy", but a good summary is this Star Press Article.

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Suspicions of Conspiracy Swirl Around Martin Luther King's Assassination

One of the great crimes of the century was the assassination of Martin Luther King. The government said James Earl Ray did it. Ray claimed he was victim of a conspiracy. Many believed him, including Martin Luther King's family. Reporter turned lawyer Wayne Chastain believed him too, and devoted twenty years to Ray's defense.

Wayne Chastain. When Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis on April 4, 1968, 38 year-old Wayne was a veteran crime reporter for the Memphis Press Scimitar. He was eating at the nearby Peabody and was among the first on the scene and was the first journalist to interview many of the witnesses. In time, James Earl Ray was imprisoned for the crime, but Ray insisted he was the victim of a conspiracy. Supporters of Ray's conspiracy theory were members of the Martin Luther King family and Ray's defense attorneys, William Pepper and Wayne Chastain, who had since completed his law degree and was admitted to the bar in 1974.

Wayne played himself in the 1992 TV movie, Who Killed Martin Luther King?. Wayne Chastain died of cancer at 69 on June 7, 1999. James Earl Ray had died on April 23, 1998. In 2003, William Pepper wrote about the lengthy case in An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King.

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Militia Member Threatens to Kill Attorney General Janet Reno

Paul T. Chastain was a member of the South Carolina Minutemen Corps. In July, 1998 he was charged with weapons, explosives and drug violations after allegedly trying to trade drugs for a machine gun and C-4 plastic explosive.

Paul T. Chastain. The South Carolina Minutemen Corps web site listed Paul Chastain's address and phone number as its point of contact. The small group operated from a 200-acre campground called Sky Ranch. Paul Chastain swapped 300 tablets of Dilaudid, a morphine substitute, to undercover police for an M-16 automatic rifle and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. The previous February, Paul wrote an article for Media Bypass, a magazine popular among the antigovernment Patriot movement. He signed it Lt. Col. Paul T. Chastain Jr., South Carolina militia. In the article he said that demands for redress from a tyrannical government "will come to nought without a credible threat of force to effect change if need be. Indeed, the only effective check to brute force is force in kind. ..."

Paul pled guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. In March, 2008 he was sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison. See more.

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A City Arrays All Its Force Against a Crippled Hero and His Bicycle

The Silliest Crime. Ed Chasteen has multiple sclerosis and uses his bicycle much like a wheel chair, but the city fined him for parking his bike in front of a restaurant. Nearly everyone recognized the impropriety of the case against him--except the city. They even fired the city prosecutor who refused to prosecute the case.

Ed Chasteen. Read the full story at Ed Chasteen.

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