tampabay.com

At bottom of slope for former pastor: crack arrest

Before his arrest on drug charges, he divorced and changed his lifestyle.

By AMANDA PALLESCHI
Published May 8, 2007


TAMPA - For 17 years, pastor David Anton drove to church in a Ford Windstar with his wife.

On Sunday, the 70-year-old drove to church in a Pontiac Solstice convertible. Inside his shirt pocket, police said, was a crack pipe and $300 worth of cocaine.

Anton of Land O'Lakes was arrested Sunday on charges of cocaine possession, drug possession within 1, 000 feet of a church and possession of drug paraphernalia.

He is being held at Hillsborough County's Orient Road Jail on $2, 500 bail.

Anton's granddaughter, Jessica Anton, said Monday her grandfather stopped preaching at Living Word Fellowship Church, 8216 N 13th St., in August.

He was going through a divorce from Alice Anton, the head pastor at the church.

David Anton began dating younger women and in April purchased the convertible, she said.

"He was somebody you'd be proud to call your grandfather, " Jessica Anton said. "Now he's this person who looks the same, but he's not."

Tampa police confronted Anton in the church parking lot Sunday after receiving a tip that the former pastor was smoking cocaine in the area.

Anton was bending over to pick up a dropped marker when an officer noticed the drug items in his shirt pocket, police reports said.

Anton left the church in August and was no longer welcomed by its 25 members, but he frequently stopped by to use the showers or computers upstairs, Jessica Anton said.

Family members said Anton was dating Tammy Sue Fagan, 38, of Tarpon Springs, who was arrested last week on drug charges. She was released on $2, 500 bail Friday.

Jessica Anton said her grandfather denied using drugs when she spoke with him Saturday.

Anton was close to his four children and five grandchildren from his marriage to Alice Anton, she said.

Family members help run the church and its adjacent day care center. Both Jessica and Alice Anton said they do not plan to visit him in jail.

"He was doing wrong and needs to learn his lesson, " his ex-wife said.

A judge ordered Monday that he stay away from his former church if he posts bail.

Anton had previously been arrested on charges of larceny and petty theft.

Times staff writer Abbie Vansickle and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Amanda Palleschi can be reached at apalleschi@sptimes.com or 813 661-2456.