Local News

Evangelist Arrested in Florida

Posted April 29, 1999

— A self-proclaimed Raleigh evangelist charged with child abuse is in a Florida jail. Police say 36-year-old Howard Hunichen beat a baby so badly he nearly killed him.

Hunichen was picked up in Florida's panhandle area, reportedly after he tried to get eyeglasses replaced at a Wal-Mart.

According toThe News & Observer, when the Florida Wal-Mart called to verify the prescription, an alert employee at the Wal-Mart on Glenwood Avenue called 911. Police immediately called the Florida store to ask that the local sheriff's department be called.

Hunichen was picked up as he calmly waited for his lens prescription to be faxed from Raleigh. He is expected to be extradited to Raleigh soon.

Hunichen calls himself a "lover of all mankind," but police say the man of God committed a heinous crime against a 7-month-old child.

"The baby has several fractures, brain injuries and received an injury last Friday that caused cardiac arrest," says Sgt. John Lynch with the Durham Police Department.

Lynch says Zachary Fortner should live, but the little boy will probably have permanent brain damage. The baby remains in the hospital.

Zachary's parents, Robert and Lisa Fortner, are in jail, charged with child abuse.

For the past two months or so, the Fortner family had been living with Hunichen at his apartment on Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh. Now, neighbors have a lot of questions about what happened there.

"How do you discipline a 7-month-old baby?" asks neighbor Amelia Seymore. "Why do you do that? I don't know."

Hunichen's voice had been heard daily on Durham's 1030 AM. His words can still be found on his own site on the World Wide Web.

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