The alleged murder plot by disgraced celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, just got stranger.
Earlier this week, I reported allegations that MacDonald plotted to kill his former son-in-law, Tony Groves, in 2015. I also reported allegations that MacDonald directed two former employees to spy on Groves.
Now MacDonald, who hasn’t spoken publicly since Harvest Bible Chapel fired him in February, has released a video of him and Groves espousing their love for each other.
In the video, MacDonald concedes that he and Groves have “been through some things,” but adds that the two have “always stayed friends” and that Groves has given him “one of the best grandsons we have.”
Groves replies, “That’s true. Like you said, we’ve always been friends, but overall, we’re family.”
Yet, in a report released yesterday by police in Wilmette, Illinois, a target of one of MacDonald’s alleged murder plots told police that he had “heard MacDonald talk about harming people he didn’t like in the past,” so “he was not surprised” by reports that MacDonald sought to kill him.
“(A) target of one of MacDonald’s alleged murder plots told police that he had ‘heard MacDonald talk about harming people he didn’t like in the past,’ so ‘he was not surprised’ by reports that MacDonald sought to kill him.”
However, Emmanuel “Manny” Bucur, a former bodyguard of MacDonald’s, said MacDonald specifically asked him to kill Groves during a three-day motorcycle trip in 2015. Bucur said MacDonald wanted Groves dead because Groves had cheated on his daughter, Abby MacDonald, multiple times. Bucur also said MacDonald believed that Groves had made an explicit video of his daughter and Groves, which MacDonald feared Groves might post online. (Bucur said he never saw any evidence that this video existed.)
The alleged target in the report also states that MacDonald had called him “before the police made contact.” He added that MacDonald told him that “the rumors that he wanted (name redacted) killed were untrue.”
I repeatedly called and texted MacDonald for comment, but he did not respond.
Police Report Reveals Other Troubling Details
In addition to testimony by Groves, and also by Muller and Bucur, the Wilmette police report also included the testimony of a former unnamed employee at Harvest. This former employee alleged that MacDonald once “pointed a rifle” at a contractor who demanded payment for work he had done on MacDonald’s house and “pushed him down some steps.”
The former employee also stated that on his last day at Harvest, MacDonald—who he said was six-foot, four-inches tall and over 300 pounds— “was very upset and physically intimidating. He yelled and slammed doors.”
“This former employee alleged that MacDonald once ‘pointed a rifle’ at a contractor who demanded payment for work he had done on MacDonald’s house and ‘pushed him down some steps.’”
The former employee said in the report that MacDonald is “always armed” and added that he “is afraid of MacDonald.”
Wilmette police stated in the report that their investigation found “no chargeable criminal offenses within Wilmette’s jurisdiction.” However, the report added that the case has been referred to an unnamed jurisdiction for “potential further criminal investigation,” and that the investigation is ongoing.
“Paranoid and in need of serious help”
James MacDonald is “paranoid and in need of serious help.” That’s according to Paul Gracey, a former elder at Harvest who also served as Harvest special counsel to the senior pastor and chief administrative officer from January 2018 to August 2018. Gracey said he couldn’t comment on his time working at Harvest but described two incidents that occurred prior to his employment. Gracey said both incidents occurred on Sunday, May 1, 2016.
At the time, Gracey was working as chief administrative officer at Calvary Chapel Las Vegas, and MacDonald had flown out to speak at the Sunday services at the church. Gracey said that after the services, he said he drove MacDonald to Shadow Creek Golf Course about 10 miles north of Las Vegas. Gracey said that while on deserted roads within three to four miles of the course, MacDonald turned to him and accused Gracey of taking driving him out there to kill him.
Gracey said he was shocked and pointed to the GPS, which showed the route to the golf course and said, “James, we’re going to the golf course. What are you talking about?”
At the time, Gracey said he wasn’t sure if MacDonald was serious or not, but added, “Why would you joke about that?”
“Gracey said that while on deserted roads within three to four miles of the course, MacDonald turned to him and accused Gracey of taking driving him out there to kill him.”
Gracey said early in the meal, the waiter went behind MacDonald unobtrusively to serve him bread or water. Gracey said this caused MacDonald to reprimand the waiter, telling him to never go behind him and sneak up on him again. However, Gracey said later in the meal, a different waiter went behind MacDonald, startling him, and causing MacDonald to loudly reprimand the waiter, causing a scene.
Gracey said at the time, that was the only paranoid behavior he had witnessed in MacDonald, so he shrugged it off. However, he said now he feels quite differently.
MacDonald allegedly takes bat & ski mask to find daughter
Another former Harvest employee told me an additional disturbing story that occurred about 15 years ago, when MacDonald’s daughter, Abby, was in high school.
According to Dan Plantz, former youth pastor and director of Camp Harvest, MacDonald was distressed that Abby was hanging out with people MacDonald didn’t like. One day, MacDonald called and asked Plantz to meet MacDonald in a parking lot in Rolling Meadows to go “find Abby.”
Plantz did as requested. And Plantz reported that MacDonald arrived wearing all black, holding a ski mask and baseball bat. Plantz said he was stunned and asked MacDonald what kind of mission he had in mind, but MacDonald didn’t reply.
Plantz said MacDonald got in his car and Plantz told MacDonald to put the mask in the back seat. He said the two then drove to a few places MacDonald suspected Abby might be, but they never found her and went home.
Plantz said he also once witnessed MacDonald repeatedly stab a picture of a former Harvest pastor with a butter knife. I described this incident in my December WORLD Magazine article. At the time of the article, Plantz was willing to confirm the story as an anonymous source but didn’t want to speak on the record.
However, this week, Plantz told me more about the story, which allegedly took place in the Camp Harvest dining hall after a meal. Plantz said MacDonald called him over and requested that Plantz remove a picture of a former Harvest pastor, Josh Weidmann, which was hanging on the wall. Plantz said he’d take care of it and then left the building to take care of something else.
“Plantz said MacDonald then repeatedly stabbed the face of the picture and it fell to the floor. Plantz said that none of the men seated at the table said anything, and several had grins on their faces, looking ‘like they enjoyed it.’”
Plantz said that none of the men seated at the table said anything, and several had grins on their faces, looking “like they enjoyed it.” Plantz said the incident “wrecked” him. He said that day MacDonald ceased to be his pastor and he was infuriated with other men in the room.
Plantz said MacDonald was upset with the pastor, Josh Weidmann, because Weidmann had learned personal information about Abby as her youth pastor, which Weidmann refused to tell MacDonald.
I called Weidmann and he said it’s never been his policy to withhold information from a parent. He said MacDonald was simply upset that Abby had shared confidential, and potentially embarrassing, information with Weidmann. Weidmann said the incident that made MacDonald especially upset was when he gave Abby a table of his that she had requested. Weidmann said Abby was moving out of her house and the table was for her new apartment.