Griffin police began investigating and said they found at least eight physically and mentally disabled people were living in the basement. Police said “caretakers” locked the residents in the basement at certain times of the day and were using it as an unlicensed “group home.”
However, investigators determined the residents were “essentially imprisoned” in the basement against their will, creating an extreme emergency hazard, police said.
Bankston and Simm-Bankston were identified as the “caretakers” who ran the open care facility. They camouflaged the operation as a faith-based program that was part of a church dubbed One Step of Faith 2nd Chance, police said.
The couple had been leasing the property for 14 months. Bankston claimed to be a pastor and locked the residents in the facility with his wife’s help, investigators determined.
The couple controlled the victims’ finances, medications and the public aid they received.
Investigators obtained a search warrant and raided the house Thursday. They concluded that the victims were often denied medicine and, in some cases, medical care.
Griffin police called in state investigators from the Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging Services. The state agents launched an independent probe into the potential abuse and neglect claims. Five of the residents proved to be wards of the state. By Friday, all of the disabled patrons staying at the Bankston’s facility had been relocated and placed into suitable Department of Human Services housing.
Griffin police and the Department of Human Services continue to investigate the group home. Charges against Simm-Bankston are forthcoming and additional charges against Bankston are pending both investigations, according to police.