A megachurch pastor allegedly asked his personal bodyguard to murder his former son-in-law during a motorcycle trip to the Creation Museum.
That’s both a winning Fundamentalist Christian Bingo card and the allegation made by the bodyguard, Emmanuel “Manny” Bucur, against the founder of Illinois’ Harvest Bible Chapel church, James MacDonald.
Then his empire crashed down last year following a devastating article by journalist Julie Roys, subsequent details from Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller, and an exposure of his mismanagement by independent bloggers. MacDonald later sued Roys and the bloggers for defamation. The lawsuit was dropped months later in part because the church didn’t want to produce documents that would make their way into the public sphere. MacDonald was fired from the church in February.
That’s all prelude to the new allegation.
Muller said MacDonald — a celebrity pastor who was fired from Harvest Bible Chapel in February —asked him at least twice in 2018 if Muller knew a hitman MacDonald could hire. Muller said he thought MacDonald was joking at first. But during a conversation in December, Muller said it became clear to him that MacDonald was “really serious.”
Similarly, Emmanuel “Manny” Bucur, a deacon at Harvest and former confidant and volunteer bodyguard of MacDonald’s, said MacDonald asked him in 2015 to kill MacDonald’s former son-in-law. Bucur added that MacDonald offered to help him dispose of the body.
If that’s a joke, it’s a really weird one… and one that MacDonald made separately to two of his closest confidantes.
Police in Wilmette (IL) are investigating the allegations. If MacDonald is guilty of soliciting a murder, it’s a crime that carries a jail sentence of up to 30 years.
The request to the bodyguard was allegedly made in 2015 during a trip to the Creation Museum. Bucur saw MacDonald checking out a porn site on his phone. When he asked about it, MacDonald said he feared his son-in-law had posted damning video (perhaps of his daughter) on the site. (Sure…) That video, if it existed, was never discovered. The son-in-law was also allegedly having multiple affairs.
Bucur said that MacDonald then leaned toward him until MacDonald was inches from his face and said that he needed to ask him something based on what Bucur had just heard. Bucur said MacDonald then asked Bucur if he would be willing to “take Tony out” for MacDonald.
Bucur said he replied, “Are you asking me what I think you’re asking me?”
Bucur said MacDonald said yes and noted that with Bucur’s background (as a combat marine veteran), it shouldn’t be too hard to kill Groves and get away with it. Bucur said MacDonald added that he’d help Bucur dispose of the body and no one would know.
Bucur emphatically said no and the conversation ended there, he says. He didn’t tell authorities at the time, in part because he was “enamored” by the powerful pastor. There are other stories, however, of MacDonald trying to spy on his son-in-law, going ballistic near weapons, and carrying a gun in his car at all times. Those things aren’t damning on their own, per se, but they don’t really help his defense.
Muller has just posted a podcast with Bucur (under an anonymous name) in which this story is rehashed.
It should be noted, again, that these are all allegations. The investigation is ongoing and nothing is public yet. That said, previous allegations about MacDonald’s bad behavior were denied and dismissed by church leaders… until they turned out to be accurate. MacDonald’s actions, especially over the past year, have shown just how power hungry and money-loving he was. That doesn’t mean he’s the type of guy to call for a hitman, but it does suggest his critics have no need to lie. The truth appears to have been on their side up to this point.