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Former Methodist Pastor Recants Confession to Wife’s Killing

November 7, 1989 GMT

MOULTRIE, Ga. (AP) _ A former pastor who recently confessed to killing his first wife 10 years ago by setting their mobile home on fire now says the confession was untrue.

Former United Methodist pastor James Chastain has written letters recanting the confession that led to his being charged with murder.

Colquitt County District Attorney Lamar Cole said confessions and recantings of confessions are admissible in court, and he noted that retractions of confessions are fairly common.

″It’s up to the jury, who they want to believe,″ he said Tuesday.

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″I James P. Chastain, deny the written confession that says that I did in June of 1979 set fire to a trailer in which my first wife, Theresa Gail Chastain, died. I deny the charges against me in this matter,″ the former pastor wrote in a letter to the sheriff and district attorney in Colquitt County, where he is charged with murder.

Chastain has been held in the Schley County Detention Center since his arrest in October in connection with a fire at his brother-in-law’s home. Authorities have said they don’t know where Chastain will be tried first.

He was arrested after his second wife, the Rev. Luanne Chastain, found a piece of paper which the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said contained notes on a plan to kill her.

Chastain’s letter said he ″believed that if I confessed to this crime as well as others that I would receive the help needed due to the note that my second wife, the Rev. Luanne Chastain, found.″

At the time of his arrest, Chastain was circuit pastor of four small churches in southwest Georgia.