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TENESSEE: TV evangelist trial date reaffirmed in abuse and neglect case

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TV evangelist Brenda Viars  in abuse and neglect caseA Sullivan County TV preacher is still on track for a Dec. 12 trial on charges alleging she abused and neglected her 92-year-old mother and 59-year-old disabled husband, who both required immediate medical care when they were removed from her home in February.

Brenda Viars, 59, 4260 Highway 126, Blountville, made a brief appearance Thursday morning in Sullivan County Criminal Court. Her attorneys, Jordan Pennington and Rick Spivey, indicated their client still wishes to proceed to trial on two counts each of physical abuse or gross negligence of an impaired adult, a Class C felony, and willful abuse, neglect or exploitation of an adult, a Class E felony.

The Dec. 12 trial date was set when Viars pleaded not guilty to the charges back in July.

Viars' charges allege she abused or neglected her mother between May 10, 2010, and Feb. 16, 2011, and her husband between Oct. 10, 2010, and Feb. 16, 2011.

Feb. 16 is when investigators with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Department of Human Services allegedly found Viars ’ mother and husband living in squalor in an apartment adjacent to a church Viars was pastoring — the All for Jesus Church of God at 948 Beaver Creek Road.

At that time, the Sullivan County Planning Department closed the church building and posted a notice declaring it unfit for human occupation due to infestation, garbage accumulation and obstructed walkways. Officials report the building was cleaned up by mid-March.

SCSO Detective George Ann Pascu described the apartment as difficult to walk through due to the amount of trash littering the home. She said the smell of it was detectable from inside the church. Both the mother and the husband had been neglected to the point that they required immediate medical care, Pascu said.

Viars’ mother and husband were both taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment. According to a hospital spokesman, Viars’ mother was discharged on Feb. 22, and her husband was discharged on March 7.

A Tennessee Department of Human Services spokesman previously advised he was told Viars' mother was initially placed in an assisted-living facility upon her release from the hospital, and that Viars' husband had to have part of one leg amputated.

The TDHS spokesman said that the Adult Protective Services division reports Viars' mother and husband eventually moved back in with Viars at her Blountville residence. He said the Adult Protective Services division reported conducting home checks in March, April and May and finding no concerns.

Viars hosts the weekly television program “King’s Servants,” which airs Sunday evenings on WLFG-TV, a station licensed in Grundy, Va., and owned by Living Faith Ministries in Abingdon. The website of sponsor Kingsway Charities says the program showcases various Christian charities and ministries that serve communities located in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

A Sullivan County grand jury returned sealed indictments against Viars on June 28. She was arrested June 30 and released on a $50,000 bond the same day.