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A Chase, a Wreck, and 20 Naked Pentecostals

August 20, 1993

VINTON, La. (AP) _ The devil made them do it. That’s what some of the 20 naked Pentecostals packed cheek-to-cheek into a car told police after the vehicle was chased into a tree.

Officers watched in disbelief as the group piled out of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am after the wreck and began religious chants.

The passengers, relatives from Floydada, Texas, said they were en route to a religious retreat somewhere in Florida, Police Chief Dennis Drouillard said.

He said some passengers said they stripped because their clothes were possessed by the devil.

″Didn’t have a stitch of clothes on. I mean, no socks, no underwear, no nothin’,″ he said. ″They didn’t say much. They mainly got out and chanted religious sayings.″

The police stopped the car Thursday after getting a report that the car contained naked people. The driver got out wearing only a towel, but then jumped back in, sped off, and crashed into a tree, police said.

The car was totaled, but the injuries all were minor, Drouillard said.

″I guess when you’re packed in that tight, there’s not much room to move around,″ he said. A police officer gave the passengers clothes at the scene.

Drouillard said the group ranged in age from 1 to 65 and included three pregnant women and five children, who were stuffed into the trunk.

Driver Sammy Rodriguez and his brother, Danny, said they were Pentecostal preachers, Drouillard said.

Floydada Police Chief James Hale said he had been looking for the Rodriguez family since Tuesday, when relatives reported them missing. ″They made statements like the devil was after them and Floydada was going to be destroyed if they stayed here,″ Hale said. Floydada is a small Texas Panhandle town about 550 miles from Vinton.

The family left Floydada in five or six cars, abandoning them and belongings along the way.

Sammy Rodriguez, 29, was held pending an investigation into reckless endangerment of the children. He was booked on suspicion of reckless driving, flight from an officer, and other offenses.

The 19 others were released and spent the night in a shelter.

Update hourly