Pushing Up Lilies

True Stories of Pastors and Ministers Turned Murderers

Episode Summary

Join me, Julie Mattson, your guide into the darkest corners of true crime on Pushing Up Lilies. In this spine-chilling episode, we unravel the unholy stories of pastors, reverends and ministers who, behind the sacred facade, commit unthinkable acts — killing their spouses and attempting to shroud their sins in a cloak of deception. In today's episode, we explore the shocking narratives of those entrusted with spiritual guidance, exposing the sinister secrets that lead to the ultimate betrayal. Through meticulous storytelling and analysis, we confront the disturbing cases where faith turns to folly, and holy vows are broken in the most heinous manner. Listener discretion is advised.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:30 Hey guys, welcome to another episode.

0:33 I hope everyone's having an amazing week.

0:35 Our weather here has been beautiful last weekend.

0:38 It kind of drizzled all weekend.

0:41 I hope everyone was able to watch the Super Bowl if you wanted to.

0:45 That game was awesome.

0:47 I personally cheered for Kansas City because my dad passed away last year, and it was his favorite team.

0:53 He loved Patrick Mahomes.

0:56 I cheered for them for him.

0:59 And so I was super happy that they were able to pull it out at the end.

1:03 But I was the only, well, I was one of two people where we were watching the game that was actually cheering for Kansas City.

1:11 Anyway, hope your team won.

1:13 If not, I hope you enjoyed watching the game and got to spend the day with friends.

1:18 The struggle is still real at our office this week.

1:22 We've had a ton of suicides and, and I know we've talked about this before.

1:27 Most of them are people with health issues.

1:31 People that feel like they're a burden to their family and people that are in pain and just don't want to struggle with it anymore.

1:41 That's kind of what we've been dealing with this week.

1:44 I know in the last two days we've had four and that's just in our office.

1:51 We're a relatively big county, right at about a million.

1:55 That's still a lot for us.

1:56 Just in a couple of days.

1:58 Typically we'll see that around the holidays.

2:00 Like we start seeing it around November, it might continue through January.

2:05 I don't think tax season had anything to do with it.

2:08 Although you have to wonder so.

2:10 Yeah, it's just been a really weird week.

2:14 A lot of people are estranged from their families and so we've been having to do some next of kin searches and try to find relatives, but it's been super busy.

2:25 Hopefully this coming week will be better.

2:28 I go back into the office tomorrow and we shall see.

2:33 We always hope that everyone behaves and does not cause us to have a busy day, but it's completely unexpected.

2:42 You know what?

2:43 That's one thing that I love about my job is it's so unpredictable.

2:48 Literally, every single day is different and I kind of like that.

2:54 It challenges me a little bit to put on my thinking cap and just try to be creative with my picture taking and my interview skills.

3:06 There's just a lot of opportunity to learn in forensics.

3:08 And I can honestly say that I learned something every single day, something new.

3:14 Even as long as I've been doing it, sometimes I'll just learn a new word that I didn't even know was a word.

3:20 It's kind of strange.

3:21 We'll be reviewing medical records and it's like, what is that?

3:25 Never heard of it?

3:26 And that's another exciting part about the job.

3:29 Y'all know I'm in grad school and it's been fun.

3:33 I have two weeks of class left.

3:36 That's kind of exciting.

3:37 And I will be registering soon for my third master's level course.

3:42 Let's just cross our fingers.

3:44 I think it's advanced pathophysiology, met someone in my med spa last week that was halfway through with a program at a different college.

3:52 And I asked her about that course, and she said it was kind of rough honestly though, I'm going to be a little bit happy to not be taking a class that requires me to use a P A format.

4:04 I'm so over a P A format and I'm a little bit over research.

4:09 I think the last three classes I've had require research.

4:14 I don't know, I'm not English major, so I'm not real focused on that.

4:19 Anyway, there's that something came up in the office the other day and we were all talking, and I thought that it might be just a cool subject because I know that we've seen a lot of ministers and rabbis and preachers and whatever you want to call them in different religions actually be involved in killing their spouses.

4:45 You know, it's funny because I pulled up several different stories from the past and a lot of them are from Texas.

4:51 I don't know what the deal is, but we did have a shooting this past week and I don't know if many people heard about it, but Lakewood church is a big church in Houston, the Houston area and Joel Osteen is over that church and he took it over, I think in 99 or 2000, when his dad passed away, they had a woman with her seven year old child come in wearing a trench coat, carrying an AR 15, I believe she actually opened fire on people.

5:29 And luckily it was between sermons.

5:31 It was right before a sermon was supposed to start for their Hispanic congregation.

5:37 She just kind of walked in, she was shot by off duty police officers and in the crossfire.

5:47 However, her child did get shot in the head.

5:51 I believe that the child is still in critical condition.

5:55 There was also another gentleman who kind of got hit in the crossfire and I think he injured his leg, but he has already been released, I believe is what I read, but we've all seen it in the news, you know, numerous church shootings and issues with churches.

6:13 I've never belonged to a congregation where there's been a problem.

6:17 I know growing up, one of my very best friend's dad was a church of Christ preacher and I went to church with them just because I spent the night with her a lot on Saturday nights and Sunday morning.

6:28 That's what they did.

6:30 But the family was amazing.

6:32 I mean, the parents were very appropriate, you know, I guess, is a good word.

6:37 But you never know.

6:38 I mean, and it's just like with anything, you know, there are people that do all kinds of things and preaching, it may not be to them just a job, but it is a job.

6:49 They're, I guess normal just like everyone else.

6:52 According to what we see in the tabloids, the crimes that are committed.

6:58 But one that I found, and this again was in Texas which, hey, it's not our fault.

7:05 Matt Baker was a Baptist minister in a town called Hewitt, Texas.

7:10 And this is back in 06.

7:13 His wife, Carrie, who was the mother of his two Children overdosed on sleeping pills.

7:21 That's what they thought.

7:23 That was not the case at all.

7:25 And one reason that that was discovered is that Carrie after she passed away, people were still getting phone calls from her phone by a divorced church member whom the husband Matt Baker had been having an affair with.

7:43 How stupid is that?

7:45 Y'all, like if you're going to kill your wife or even not kill her, if you're not involved at all, why would you give your dead wife's phone to the woman you're having an affair with?

7:56 Like that definitely looks suspicious.

7:59 And of course, as we all already know the husband is usually the first suspect.

8:05 It just drives me crazy how I love stupid criminals.

8:08 I can just say I love stupid criminals.

8:11 I don't even catch the criminals.

8:12 I just see the bodies but sometimes just when I hear the police tell me the background behind some of the deaths we go on.

8:20 It's like man, you missed that commonsense class.

8:24 Vanessa Bowles was actually the female that Matt Baker was having an affair with and she was again a divorced church member and she actually stated that Matt Baker said he killed his wife because of her.

8:41 Now, Matt Baker got 65 years in prison back in 2010.

8:47 But at midnight on April the eighth of 2006, Baker found the police saying that he had found his wife, Carrie who was 31 and a schoolteacher naked and unresponsive in their bedroom.

9:02 Ok.

9:03 This is a call that the police get.

9:05 I mean, I hate to say all the time, but unfortunately, super frequently they'll get calls about people being found unresponsive.

9:14 This is what happened.

9:15 It was midnight, there was an open bottle of sleeping pills and a typed suicide note, you know, not many people are going to go to the trouble to type a suicide note.

9:26 Some people will write it.

9:28 Some people will write it over a period of time which you can tell sometimes by the ink changing if they like switch pins or some people date them.

9:38 Some people don't.

9:40 But it's very rare because it is such a personal thing that someone leaves behind.

9:45 It's rare for it to be typed.

9:47 Many, many, many of them that I've seen and most of them are handwrit and that's just in my case, but it just seems more personal, and some people will even write them for multiple family members and put them in different envelopes, which I always found interesting.

10:04 A lot of elderly people who are ill and have obviously planned this out for a long time, strategically will leave out all of their, you know, their life insurance policy, their will, their driver's license the passwords to all of their accounts online and then maybe individualized letters and envelopes to different family members.

10:30 Those are very personal to them.

10:32 And like I said, a majority of them are handwrit.

10:35 But this type of suicide note from Carrie Baker was left in the residence and it basically said that she loved her kids and she was sorry, apparently, Carrie and her husband had lost a child.

10:52 She was a year old when she died of brain cancer.

10:57 She died four months after she was diagnosed, her name was Cassidy.

11:02 Little Cassidy passed away.

11:04 And so Matt told the police that Carrie had been depressed since Cassidy's passing because of that.

11:13 It was ruled a suicide many times in suicides.

11:17 Of course, we do talk to the family.

11:19 The spouse is usually the first person.

11:22 Sometimes we'll talk to neighbors or friends.

11:24 And we ask, that's one question we ask, is there a history of suicide attempts?

11:29 Have they ever talked about hurting themselves?

11:32 There's a lot of different questions you can ask.

11:35 Have they ever had inpatient treatment?

11:37 Are they on any medications for depression?

11:41 There's just a lot of different questions.

11:43 And you know what, even if they're on meds for depression, they don't necessarily ever consider suicide.

11:51 And I always think that that's unfair for doctors to suspect suicide when someone has a history of depression because they may also have a history of heart problems.

12:03 But don't get me on that milk carton.

12:06 But anyway, because she had been depressed, apparently it was ruled a suicide because it makes sense.

12:15 Right?

12:15 You lose a child at one year of age to brain cancer.

12:20 Like who's going to not be depressed?

12:22 You're not a normal person.

12:23 If you're not depressed.

12:25 After that, after it was ruled a suicide, law enforcement began to suspect baker of slipping his wife some sleeping pills before he suffocated her.

12:38 The wife had already been buried.

12:41 He attended her funeral and was appropriately grieving at this point, no one really suspected him.

12:51 She was exhumed embalming did destroy a big part of the evidence.

12:59 However, Bulls admitted to having an affair with Baker and Baker had told her about the murder and he told her that he wiped his dead wife's hands over the suicide note in case they checked it for fingerprints.

13:18 This was thought out.

13:20 I mean, he's watched a couple of episodes of CS R, did he wear gloves when he pulled it off of the printer?

13:29 Did he touch it with a gloved hand?

13:31 And if he lives in the same house, there's a good chance some of his skin cells may still be on there, but he knew that he was going to be a suspect.

13:40 He wiped her hands all over it.

13:42 If the police check for the fingerprints, hers would be there even though it wasn't handwrit after 7.5 hours, a jury actually agreed that he was guilty, and this was on January 10th of 2010, and he was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

14:04 And now the two Carrie and Matt met in college and married after only three months.

14:11 And so like in many cases, everyone believed that their marriage was perfect.

14:16 They had beautiful Children together.

14:19 And so there was no reason to think that anything was wrong.

14:22 But it did, you know, I guess whenever they discovered that Kerry's phone was still being used by Vanessa bulls.

14:30 That's when they went to her and they were like, hey, why do you have this phone?

14:34 And that's when she kind of coughed up.

14:36 You know, hey, we're having an affair.

14:37 He gave it to me.

14:38 He told me he killed his wife.

14:40 You know, those stories are tragic and took both parents from those sweet kiddos.

14:49 It's just really tragic.

14:50 I hate to hear stories like this, but unfortunately, we hear them every day.

14:56 There was another case in a church again.

15:01 Darn it, Texas.

15:02 This was in Troop Texas seven weeks after Reverend Michael Tabb took over the first United Methodist church in Troop.

15:13 This happened.

15:15 This was in 2002, his wife Marla was found beaten to death in the parsonage in her pajamas.

15:23 There were some cracks, I guess you could say in their four-year marriage, there was some physical and verbal altercations.

15:32 He apparently was very fond of strip clubs and occasionally would go on an alcohol binge.

15:40 You know, I mean, we're not all without our problems, but this is and maybe it's not rare.

15:45 But I wanted to say this is rare for a reverend, but traces of blood were found on his shoes and in the bed of his truck, it was apparent that he had attempted to clean them.

15:59 But of course, it's called trace because you can't always see it with the naked eye, but sometimes it's still there.

16:06 In 2003, he was sentenced to 55 years.

16:10 Now, here's the kicker in the beginning when he was initially sentenced, he received 50 years, but his sentence was increased after he tried to commit suicide while he was in prison.

16:23 You're going to try to take the easy way out.

16:25 Here's five more years have a nice life.

16:28 So anyway, their Children were three and 15 months old at the time that this happened again.

16:37 Why do you have to take both parents away from these little kids?

16:41 Marlo was killed just six weeks after she gave birth to their second son.

16:47 He did somewhat stage the crime scene which only smart people do and he overturned some picture frames and lamps and made it appear as if there was a struggle.

17:00 Now, the autopsy showed blunt force trauma to her head and her jaw was broken in several places.

17:08 Now, the murder weapon itself was never found.

17:12 Sometimes I just wish I could go to a scene after the fact and look for the weapon.

17:18 It might not even be at the crime scene.

17:21 It's probably like a needle in a haystack or an Easter egg in a 400-acre field.

17:29 But I would love to just like look for a weapon in the area where an incident like that occurred and the weapon was never found.

17:39 The minister was a former navy chaplain again.

17:45 You know, they moved there for him to become the preacher at this church, but blood was found in his truck bed and apparently after the funeral, he was reportedly, I say reportedly at a gentleman's club while they were burying her, who knows if that's true?

18:07 I mean, you hear different things on the news media, but nonetheless, he was responsible for killing his wife.

18:15 You know, we see a lot of people that try to clean up the murder scene again, dumb criminals.

18:21 They don't always realize that trace evidence is called trace because it's not visible.

18:28 I can remember this is you're going to laugh.

18:31 But I can remember several years ago, I was testifying in a sexual assault case.

18:37 Now, the one thing I wanted to laugh so hard, and I know that my answer was said sarcastically because I did get a chuckle out of the jury unintentionally.

18:50 I never tried to make a courtroom laugh when I'm on the stand.

18:55 However, I did a sexual assault exam on a child who had been assaulted by an uncle.

19:04 I can remember the uncle's defense attorney asking me while I was on the stand if I saw the sperm in her vagina while I did the exam.

19:17 I wanted to say sir, you know, when you're at home taking care of yourself, do you see the sperm?

19:22 I mean, I don't know, of course I didn't say that but it's like you don't see them.

19:28 I mean, they're microscopic.

19:29 They are again, somebody may lick your face, or your neck and you can get trace off of a lot of different things with very little.

19:42I know we've touched DNA before.

19:44 It only takes like seven skin cells to get DNA off of something and you leave your skin cells every time you touch something.

19:53 When that technology became better known, there were a lot more criminals caught and released.

20:01 I mean, because what an amazing technology trace not visible but, you know, chances are he didn't have a black light, they probably just shined a black light in the back of his truck and saw blood and all they have to do is swab it and send it to the crime lab and get a match.

20:17 It's not a difficult process.

20:19 However, I think people think that investigators are stupid, and they don't realize the technology that's available now to catch criminals and that's fun for us because we definitely enjoy finding the bad guy, especially after they think they got away with it.

20:38 Now there was another again, y'all, this is in Houston.

20:41 This is also in Texas, and I didn't do this purposefully.

20:45 I was doing research on pastors, ministers, reverends who committed crimes like literally most of them were in Texas.

20:54 I know they're all over the world, but in this case, most of them were in Texas.

20:59 This is a Houston pastor Tracy Burleson; he told the police that his wife Pauletta who was 56 and he had argued on the night of March 18th of 2010, and he found her shot in the back of the head outside of the house after he made a short trip to the store.

21:23 Now, how convenient too that these men are never there when it happens.

21:28 Just like, you know, Shanann wants everyone comes home and finds, oh my God, my wife's gone.

21:34 Her purse is still here or oh my God, my wife's laying in a pool of blood or my wives in the front yard and she's been shot in the head.

21:42 How convenient that you're not there when it happens.

21:46 That looks suspicious.

21:49 I know that they think that women are weak and that if we're left at home alone, we're more susceptible to crime.

21:55 And you know what?

21:55 Maybe we are.

21:57 But this guy, y'all, he enlists his son to kill the stepmother in a murder for hire plot to collect $60,000 from her life insurance policy.

22:09 I'm sorry.

22:10 But what a shitty human, seriously, $60,000.

22:14 His wife was not worth more than $60,000 to him.

22:19 The weird thing is I found this weird.

22:22 Some of you may not, but he and his son were having affairs with the same other woman who helped the gunman, who was the son, William driving him home to clean up and then destroying the murder weapon.

22:37 Tracy Burleson, the pastor was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison.

22:45 Now, William, the son is the one that ratted him out.

22:50 The police came to William and asked him some questions and William's like, ok, maize him.

22:55 My dad hired me to kill my stepmom.

22:59 The strange thing is that Tracy Burleson continued to deny it even though his son said yes, this is what happened.

23:09 He continued to say that he didn't kill her.

23:12 Now, the woman that they were both having an affair with was Tiana Palmer Pollard.

23:18 She was charged with tampering with evidence because she did help William destroy the murder weapon.

23:26 You know, that doesn't go unpunished just because you didn't commit the murder.

23:31 And I know we've talked about that before too.

23:33 Murder for hire.

23:34 You might as well have done it yourself because it does not go over well with a jury.

23:39 The murder happened just a week after the church where he preached burned down.

23:47 There were a lot of issues in the church and who knows, maybe he was going to help rebuild the church with her insurance money, but I doubt it.

23:58 I mean, I can't believe that that would be a thing.

24:02 I think that they would probably pass around the collection plate before he would give up her $60,000 life insurance policy to build a new church.

24:11 But nice try.

24:13 These guys obviously did not get away with it.

24:16 We're talking about 55 years, 65 years, and life in prison.

24:23 Thank you to all the stupid criminals who make our lives a lot easier.

24:28 Again, this is just an example of some of the stuff that we deal with every day in our office if we were present when this happened and there were death investigators, of course, in the area where these murders occurred, we would unsuspicious, ask the husband questions about the wife, you know, who do you think wanted to hurt her?

24:52 Does she have any enemies?

24:54 Was there any adultery going on in the marriage?

24:57 And those are questions that I'm able to ask because those are important to my medical examiner as well.

25:03 You know, is it a crime of passion?

25:05 Was it a break in gone wrong?

25:09 Different things?

25:10 It doesn't change the fact that it's a homicide.

25:13 But again, we try to get as much information as we can for our doctors and any additional information that we get that might help the police is always appreciated by them as well.

25:24 I think next week we're going to cover some more because I think that this is really interesting.

25:28 It's happened a lot.

25:30 I can remember a couple of cases years ago that just really got my attention because when I was younger, you know, I thought preachers did no wrong.

25:38 That was how I was raised.

25:40 My friend, Rachel's parents were amazing, and, in my mind, they did no wrong.

25:45 You know, they went to church all the time.

25:47 I was at her house all the time.

25:49 Her dad actually performed the ceremony in my first wedding.

25:55 Thought a lot of the family, they were amazing.

25:58 And so I was raised to believe that preachers did no wrong.

26:02 It surprised me when I was younger.

26:04 The first time I heard of a preacher committing a crime or killing his wife or any of those things.

26:10 It just always just caught me completely off guard.

26:13 Now, I know, of course, I'm living in a different world than I was when I was 12 years old.

26:18 But now I know the truth now, I know that not all people are good and not all people are bad.

26:25 It's a case by case, it doesn't matter what they do for a living, it doesn't matter what their past is like.

26:31 It's just something clicks; people don't think, and bad things happen.

26:37 Unfortunately, again, we've got two families here who now don't have either parent because the father chose to take the other from them.

26:48 I seem to always talk about the weather in our area.

26:52 Sorry if you hate it.

26:53 But I know that a lot of people are going through some really bad weather right now.

26:57 It rained here literally all weekend.

27:00 It drizzled, and I was so over it and I hate to complain.

27:04 It was a little chilly but, you know, no ice, nothing like that.

27:09 I just have a hard enough time with my hair y’all, and I don't need any help by the rain jacking it up when I got somewhere to go, we tried to stay indoors.

27:17 Watched the Super Bowl, went to a restaurant here close to our house and had an amazing Wagyu beef buffet, which was to die for and won a pot in one of the Super Bowl squares that we had bought spots on.

27:35 So that was kind of exciting.

27:37 Anyway, the weather here has been absolutely gorgeous.

27:40 I think this morning it was like 38.

27:42 I put a sweatshirt on, but by the end of the day I was burning up and I didn't have a shirt on under my sweatshirt.

27:49 I couldn't, I couldn't take it off.

27:51 I just basically pushed my sleeves up.

27:54 That is kind of, I guess our issue here lately is beautiful weather.

27:59 Sorry.

28:00 But I don't know, you never know in Texas, right in the mornings it's in the thirties and by the afternoon it's in the sixties and seventies and you're taking layers off.

28:08 I hope that everyone has a great week again.

28:12 Please, please, please, look at my Murder Merch store on my website www dot pushing up Lily's dot com and feel free to go on and request that I cover a specific story or I would love to have guest hosts.

28:27 I know that many of you have family members or friends that have gone through something traumatic that you would like to share.

28:35 And if you want to be on the air all you need to do is go on the website and type in your information and I will get back with you and we will arrange to do it virtually in the comfort of your own home.

28:46 How easy is that?

28:48 And all you have to do is talk and then you can tell your story.

28:52 Have an amazing week and we look forward to talking next week.

28:57 Bye y'all.

28:59 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

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29:10 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

29:13 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.