Here's part of Carpenter's long-distance phone conversation with Detective Hamilton on Christmas Eve :
TC: How did you get this number?
SPD: Tim, we need to talk to you.
TC: How did you find me?
SPD: We spoke with Melisa.
At this point, Hamilton noted a crack in Carpenter's voice (farewell sweet Melisa), and he paused for several seconds.
SPD: Tim, where have you been?
SPD: Tim, are you okay?
TC: I, uh . . . I, uh, don't remember.
SPD: You don't remember?
One needn't ask Tim Carpenter for his definition of hell. It began when he finally opened his apartment door to allow wife Carol and pastor Lindell into his secret refuge. According to Lindell, he "cowered like a wounded dog" and refused to recognize anyone. And then there was that long, dark drive back home to Springfield from Memphis during the wee hours of Christmas morning. Could that have been anything but hell on earth?
When Carpenter found out he was being taken to Cox North, he became very upset. He became downright angry when he found out Pastor Lindell had already completed the necessary forms to have him admitted for mental evaluation, but at this point, he really didn't have much say in the matter. "We don't think Tim is in a situation where he is capable of making rational decisions," Lindell said.
Police were eager to interview Carpenter, but they had not been notified of his arrival. Nurses at Cox North were even told not to tell SPD that Carpenter had been admitted. A clever detective found out his location only by leaning over the nurses' station desk and viewing the computer monitor while the nurse was away asking superiors what to do.
On Christmas Day, Lindell issued a news release to the public that stayed with the line about the head injury and lost memory. Here's an excerpt:
"Thankfully, Tim has been found in Memphis, Tennessee. Unfortunately, Tim is not well. He has suffered a head injury apparently from one or more blows to the head. He has lost his memory, and he is disoriented. He does not know his wife, his children or his friends, including me . . .
There are so many unanswered questions concerning Tim's current condition, the circumstances surrounding his disappearance, and what has occurred since he's been gone. Tim is totally disoriented."
Lindell suggested that Carpenter may have to go out of state for treatment and then added:
"Those of us who have gone to Memphis to bring Tim home would be willing to hold a news conference to share the information that we have gathered, our personal observations, and to field questions . . . Requests for further information or a news conference should be faxed to . . . "
Springfield Police were notified by Carpenter's attorney, Larry Bratvold, that same morning. Bratvold asked that no interviews with Carpenter should occur except in his presence. But when police asked on several occasions for an interview, Bratvold repeatedly contended that Carpenter's doctors advised against any "police interrogation".
Exactly who Tim's doctors were was a mystery. There was some mention of a psychiatrist from Bolivar, but no doctor contributed anything publicly regarding Carpenter's mental condition. Lindell later notified the media that Carpenter had been diagnosed with Psychogenic Fugue, a dissociative disorder in which a person forgets who they are and leaves home to create a new life. During the fugue, there is no memory of the former life. After recovery, there is no memory for events during the dissociative state.
This almost sounds like the perfect description of Carpenter's behavior except for the fact that the "fugue" state didn't seem to begin until he realized, while talking on the phone to a Springfield detective, that his little relocation caper had come to an abrupt end. Our best guess is that he continued the ruse of failed memory to avoid talking during his second "abduction" back to Springfield.
Police never did get to question Tim Carpenter, and the story died a merciful death in the media. By the first week of January, he had been checked out of the hospital and, once again, his whereabouts were unknown. It's interesting that during questioning by police after Carpenter's hospital release, Rev. Lindell admitted that his tormented associate pastor had repeatedly asked to be allowed to contact Springfield police and submit to an interview and tell police the real story. One could assume that Lindell, who had invested a good amount of air time rallying media and prayer groups, didn't want the truth told so quickly. Carpenter also told Lindell that he had planned to contact his wife and explain the situation but had decided to wait a few days.
So where are they now? The last we heard, Tim Carpenter was living in Tulsa and working for a home security company. He laid out a $10,000 check to local authorities for his official transgression, filing a false police report. The Carpenters never worked it out and were divorced a couple of years after the incident. Oklahoma authorities tried to serve the divorce papers to Carpenter at home, but there was no such address in Tulsa. They finally located him at work.
Pastor Lindell is still working God's agenda down highway 65 at James River Assembly. Our attempt for an interview a few years ago ended abruptly, though it did reveal Lindell's off-the-record grasp of what truly happened. "What he did was reprehensible," Lindell said over the phone. And then he uttered the ultimate Christian blow-off, "We're praying for him." Click.