Social worker accused of hiding religious sect abuse resigns

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, March 18, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A veteran social worker accused of coaching congregants and their children on what to say during a 2015 child abuse investigation of her secretive religious sect has resigned, an attorney for a child welfare agency said Friday.

Andrea Leslie-Fite said Lori Cornelius left her position at the Cleveland County Department of Social Services. The development came less than two weeks after The Associated Press published a report that quoted former members of the Word of Faith Fellowship sect saying that Cornelius and two assistant district attorneys — all members of the church — had helped undermine abuse investigations. The prosecutors resigned their posts and are under investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

SBI spokesman Patty McQuillan said Friday the agency isn’t currently investigating Cornelius or the Rutherford County Division of Social Services. But she said that could change.

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Leslie-Fite did not answer questions about the circumstances of the Cornelius departure. In her letter of resignation, Cornelius cited to various unspecified reasons.

Leslie-Fite added only that the resignation had been submitted earlier in the week, effective Friday.

In her letter, Cornelius did not mention the cover-up allegations that stem from an investigation of abuse at the secretive sect located in Spindale, North Carolina, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.