Community reeling after toddler's death14-month-old died after being struck inside church
WHEATON — WHEATON - Claude and Sherry Hankins said they closed on a house here on Thursday. That night, their 14-month-old daughter, Aundrea Brownlow, died after being struck by a baseball bat during a prayer service at their church.
By: Sherri Richards, The Forum, Worthington Daily Globe
WHEATON — Claude and Sherry Hankins said they closed on a house here on Thursday. That night, their 14-month-old daughter, Aundrea Brownlow, died after being struck by a baseball bat during a prayer service at their church.
“For the best day of your life to be the worst day,” Sherry Hankins said in an interview Saturday at Thy Kingdom Come World Ministry building on U.S. 75.
“I don’t know how to do this,” Sherry said, crying. “I know how to be a mom. How do you be the mom who lost her baby?”
Brownlow was struck during an altercation between Claude Hankins and David Collins, a fellow church member, over a used washer and dryer.
Collins was arrested, as well as Darryl Kennedy, who arrived at the church armed with a 2-by-4 board. Both are facing second-degree assault charges. A police department spokeswoman said further charges would be filed today after more investigation.
Meanwhile, the community of nearly 1,500 is reeling from the death of a child, a tragedy many say they saw coming.
Claude and Sherry Hankins said they’re struggling with the fact that their daughter’s fatal blow was dealt in a sanctuary, where their daughter should have been safe. Sherry attends Bible study with the wives of the accused men. On Saturday, one of those wives wrapped her arm around Sherry’s shoulder at the church.
They said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Danny Barnes, whom they call “bishop,” has been extremely supportive. Barnes said Saturday that the church will overcome the tragic loss and grow.
In the local café and convenience stores, people keep saying something needs to be done about the church — and Barnes.
“The town is very angry,” said Jenny Edwards, a clerk at Mark’s Convenience Store in Wheaton. “This should have been taken care of a while ago.
“This town has had nothing but trouble with Barnes since he came.”
Thy Kingdom Come has long been controversial in Wheaton, partly due to Barnes’ extensive criminal history and his recent run-ins with law enforcement.
Wheaton police have responded to “numerous” complaints at the ministry building, a police spokeswoman said.
In July, Barnes pleaded not guilty in neighboring Big Stone County District Court to charges of kidnapping, first-degree burglary, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and third-degree assault resulting in substantial bodily harm.
“A lot of people’s opinion was something bad was going to happen eventually,” said Todd Amborn, a Wheaton resident for more than 20 years. “I think there’s a lot of people who want to see him go away.”
Amborn said it is simply a bad situation for alcohol and drug addicts to be mingling so closely with children.
Julie Straw feels similarly. “It’s ridiculous that two grown adults can carry on that way and look who suffers? The innocent child,” said Straw, owner of the Country Corner Café on Broadway in Wheaton.
“I think the whole town is quite shocked at what happened, with her being only 14 months old and the people at this church are ‘reformed’ or whatever and they act like this,” she said.
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