Former California pastor accused of causing car accident to inherit elderly man's trust fund

Thursday, November 30, 2006
Shown in this booking photo provided by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday Nov. 29, 2006 is Doug Porter, former pastor of the Hickman Community Church in Modesto, Calif. Porter was arrested at the Mexican border on suspicion of murder, with police saying he caused a car accident that killed an 85-year-old man in a scheme to inherit his trust fund. Porter, 55, was being held without bail after getting detained at a checkpoint near San Diego on Monday, Nov. 27, 2006, as he tried to reenter the United States.(AP Photo/Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department)

MODESTO, Calif. -- A former pastor was arrested on suspicion of murder, with police saying he caused a car accident that killed an 85-year-old man in a scheme to inherit his trust fund.

Doug Porter, 55, was being held without bail after getting detained at a checkpoint near San Diego on Monday as he tried to re-enter the United States. Porter also was charged with attempted murder, elder abuse and grand theft, said Stanislaus county chief deputy district attorney John Goold.

Porter was the pastor at Hickman Community Church when he met and befriended Frank Craig, who had up to $4 million in stocks and real estate left to him after his brother died, according to another brother, N.J. Craig.

Craig asked Porter to help him build an agriculture-themed museum, and by 1999, the pastor had control of his finances, family members said. The trust was changed to replace Craig's two sisters with Porter as the successor trustee and Hickman Community Church as the new heir, they said.

Porter and Craig survived an accident in March 2002 when Porter's pickup struck an oak tree. The two crashed again in April 2004, and Craig died.

The sheriff's department began investigating after friends voiced their suspicions about Craig's death, but the case was held up as the district attorney's office focused on the high-profile Scott Peterson case.

, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for killing his wife and their unborn son, Detective Mark Copeland said.

Porter resigned from the church in Hickman, about 15 miles east of Modesto, last year "to protect the nondenominational Christian church from further negative focus," according to an ad the church placed in The Modesto Bee. His son, Aaron Porter, took over, but also resigned recently.

Craig's family has sued Porter.

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