A group of longtime Jericho members say that in March of the same year, she also signed papers naming them to a revised board of trustees with a mandate that they handle the business side of the ministry, an arrangement that would keep her son in place as the church’s spiritual leader, but bar him from controlling the money.
In a court battle that erupted days after Betty Peebles died of cancer in October, Joel Peebles, 42, disputed the claim, saying his mother left him in charge. Both sides entered court-ordered mediation Friday but did not reach a resolution. A hearing scheduled Tuesday for a judge to consider pending motions was postponed in lieu of the parties returning to mediation.
Longtime acquaintances of Betty Peebles, who also watched Joel Peebles grow up in the ministry and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the mother’s absence from her son from November 2009 through January 2010 — during which they missed the entire holiday season at a critical point in her illness — illustrates the tension that sometimes existed between the two.
Mother and son clearly loved each other, the acquaintances said, but she worried that her sole surviving son was not yet ready to handle the financial reins of the ministry she’d grown to include a 10,000-seat sanctuary, senior citizens complex, business park, college, school and a lucrative deal to provide parking during Washington Redskins games.
A letter that Betty Peebles sent to the staff of the ministry’s high school in May 2009 shows that she had reservations about the financial condition of the school, then headed by Joel Peebles. In the letter, she said the school would cost the church an unanticipated $1.2 million and that she would take over as headmaster.
In a deposition taken as part of the lawsuit that the alleged trustees filed against Joel Peebles, Gloria McClam-Magruder, a former headmaster of Jericho Christian Academy who says she is one of the trustees, testified that Betty Peebles was also worried that Joel Peebles had allowed the taxes to go delinquent on the family home in Southeast Washington. “She was very much concerned about that,” McClam-Magruder recalled in the deposition. “And she even said to me, ‘I wonder should I pay for it’ . . . because she wanted to keep that house in the family.”
Records from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue show that tax liens were filed for the property but were later settled. Foreclosure complaints were also filed against Joel and Ylawnda Peebles for property in Lanham and Baltimore, records show. Timothy Maloney, an attorney for the couple, said they own several rental properties and have had difficulty at times with tenants failing to pay the rent.