Member of Life Tabernacle Church dies of COVID-19, records say

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 3:50 PM CDT
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CENTRAL, La. (WAFB) - An elderly member of Life Tabernacle Church in Central, La. has died of the novel coronavirus, according to a coroner’s report.

Tony Spell, the controversial pastor of that church, disputes the coroner’s findings, saying the man died of another medical condition.

“That is a lie,” Spell said of the coroner’s findings when reached by phone Thursday.

Spell has come under criticism for repeatedly violating an order by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards that bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

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Since the governor’s order was put in place last month, Spell has frequently held church services with hundreds of people in attendance.

Last month, police filed six misdemeanor charges against Spell, accusing him of violating the governor’s executive order.

For the privacy of his family, WAFB-TV is not identifying the church member by name.

There is no clear way of determining where the man contracted his illness.

Spell described the man, who died earlier this week, as a “great member of the church” and one of his “right hand men.”

The pastor declined to say when the man last attended a service at the church. The coroner’s report lists the man’s cause of death as acute respiratory distress syndrome, pneumonia, and COVID-19.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia are frequently found in patients who die of coronavirus.

A lawyer for Pastor Spell is currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to The Advocate newspaper.

The newspaper reports the lawyer attended an April 2 news conference at the church as well as an April 5 church service there.

Spell says there is no way of knowing where the lawyer contracted the virus. He pointed out that the lawyer regularly went to grocery stores and other public places and could have contracted the virus at any of those places.

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