She found rearranged life not worth living

The New London Day, Eastern Connecticut, May 30, 1999
By Paul Choiniere

When she looks back, Martha Davis wonders why she didn’t attempt suicide sooner.

The year was 1991. Martha, a nurse and then 33, had been going to The King’s Chapel for about a decade. Even though she thought there were “strange things” about the church — the preoccupation with evil forces, the belief in a prophet, the accusatory late-night phone calls – she found comfort in the people.

“The people in the congregation loved you,” she said. “They were wonderful people.”

Among the wonderful people was Mary Bowles. Martha had moved into a house that Mary owned on Ashland Street in Jewett City around 1985. Both women were divorced. Martha had a young boy, Mary a son and daughter. Martha lived in a downstairs apartment, Mary upstairs, although a common stairway connected the floors and made the house seem like one home.

But at 11 p.m. one spring night, her life began a dramatic change. Kevin F. Hamel, a church pastor, and his wife dropped by. The women were told that the Lord had informed prophet Jean Spademan that Mary and her children should move in with the Hamels.

Richard and Nancy McPhaul, also church members, and their three daughters, then about 8 to 14 years old, were supposed to move into Mary’s apartment.

“I can’t tell you how devastated I was. It was such a heartbreak for me,” Martha said. “But I was told it was God’s perfect will. We were told over and over we have to surrender to him.”

The church leaders, she says, had concluded there were problems in the McPhaul family and they wanted Martha to help, particularly in caring for the children. In February 1994, the McPhauls divorced. Nancy McPhaul Davis now lives in California. Richard McPhaul is also remarried.

Martha says she cared for the girls like a mother. She did the cooking and cleaning, and took the children to their softball games and other activities. She felt at times she was selling her son short. The whole arrangement, she says, was bizarre. Though she and McPhaul slept on separate floors, to all outward appearances they were a couple.

“I was spending 99.9 percent of my time with them. We lived like a family, like a couple, except for no sex.”

In 1994, Martha’s son, then 14, went to England. The visit, which Martha thought was supposed to last several weeks, stretched into two years. Martha missed him. More and more, she says, she was confused and upset.

In December of that year, she tried to kill herself with painkillers prescribed to her after a car accident. She spent three days in intensive care at The William W. Backus Hospital.

She says she asked for time off from caring for the McPhauls. Pastor Sam J. Wibberley responded, she says, by telling her to apologize to the girls for scaring them. She asked for her son to come back, she says, but Pastor John Hibbert said he should stay in England because her suicide attempt “had ruined much of what they had accomplished with him.”

In 1995 she moved out of the Ashland Street house and left the church. A year later her son left as well. He refuses to talk about his experience.

Now 41, Martha is still in Jewett City. Unable to work as a nurse because of nerve damage from the car accident, she lives in a small apartment. She goes to counseling.

“I was so stupid,” she said.

Note: Martha Davis later successfully committed suicide the next year (2000).

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