JACKSON, Miss. — The former pastor of a south Mississippi religious enclave died in a prison hospital Thursday night, years after being convicted of several crimes, including sexually abusing a teenage boy.
The state Department of Corrections announced David Earl King’s death Friday and said an autopsy will be done. King , 83, was in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and had served about one-fourth of his sentences that totaled 66 years.
King once operated Valley of the Kings, which he described as an “independent holiness church” in Walthall County. When he was arrested, about 30 people lived on the 58-acre compound, with family members in a large ranch-style house and others in trailers. Children attended school in the church basement. Some of the followers said they believed he had the power to heal people.
In a 2002 interview with The Associated Press, Walthall County prosecutor Danny Smith described King as manipulative and abusive.
“He had gathered around him mostly women of meager means who could not support themselves,” Smith said. “He kept them in dire and incestuous circumstances, exploited and intimidated them.”
King was convicted in August 2001 and sentenced to a total of 36 years for sexual battery, conspiracy to commit a crime and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. During King’s trial, the 13-year-old victim described how King forced him to engage in sex acts.
In March 2002, King was convicted of tax evasion for not paying taxes from 1995 to 2000 on the door-to-door sales of peanut brittle to support Valley of the Kings. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and a $120,000 fine. That was five years and $20,000 for each year the taxes weren’t paid.
Two of King’s former daughters-in-law testified that, “King beat them when they returned home with inadequate, or below quota, sales, that King worked them excessively and that King forced them to work when sick,” Judge Billy Bridges wrote in 2004 when the Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld King’s tax evasion conviction.
King’s children told the AP in 2002 that they had seen their father heal broken bones, drive cancer out of a woman on her death bed and save one of their brothers from a bullet wound to the head. One of his sons, Terry King, said he saw his father’s convictions as “religious persecution.”