SANFORD, N.C. — It took two and a half weeks to arrest a local pastor accused of murdering his wife.
Deputies said church members did not cooperate in the investigation of Melvin Bynum.
Investigators said members of the congregation were afraid of Bynum and his bodyguards, or so-called armor bearers.
Kim Lytes is a former member of Cry Out Loud Ministries. She said Bynum, like some other pastors, has a handful of men dedicated to serving -- and protecting -- him.
Lytes said she never feared his armor bearers. But she admitted they can be intimidating because they are big -- just like her brother, who once trained to be one.
"If I actually say what I want to say about the other guys, I'd probably be in a lot of trouble," Lytes said.
When asked why a pastor would need protection, Lytes said: "In this world today, you never know what might happen."
Pastor Paul hosts a radio talk show in Sanford. He said he recently was roughed up by another pastor's armor bearers. He said the concept has gotten out of hand.
"In the extreme, and we're seeing a lot of it lately, these armor bearers are acting like bodyguards," Paul said, "almost like Mafia hitmen.
"Somebody has to stand up and say this garbage doesn't represent Christianity as a whole."
Pastor LeRoy Hargett said armor bearers can be traced to the Bible. He said violence and intimidation are not the intent.
"In first Samuel, you see that Saul had armor bearers," Hargett said. "It's not meant to intimidate anyone else. It's meant to defend your leader from demonic attacks.
"It's more a spiritual thing."
It is a spiritual concept that some believe is taking on a life of its own.
In addition to providing security, armor bearers act as personal assistants. They often drive a car or carry the Bible for the pastor.