PINE BLUFF, Ark. – An Arkansas woman is left questioning everything after her husband’s death revealed not one but two life insurance policies taken out on him, the second one without her knowledge.
Christine Shaw said after her husband Johnnie passed away in June, First Trinity Church of God in Christ asked for his death certificate.
She questioned why since the couple had not been members in more than a decade.
The answer? To send it to the life insurance company.
“There wasn’t only one policy, it was two in front me,” Shaw said. “I didn’t know they had one on me.”
Shaw was staring down at life insurance paperwork with her name and Social Security number on it. The application date was May of 1988. Her husband’s application was dated August of the same year.
Senior pastor Aaron Withers said 32 people signed up more than three decades ago — listing the church as the beneficiary. He told Working 4 You that 20 policies remain active.
“Since ’88, our church has had a group insurance policy,” Withers, who arrived at the church in 2020, said. “We do recognize that some have moved away, some have chosen to go to other churches, but we still hold the policies.”
Withers said the church has used weekly offerings to pay the yearly premium, which he said totals approximately $6,000, over the last three decades.
While the pastor openly discussed how much his church has paid for the plans, he was more tight-lipped about what kind of return on investment those policies have had.
Withers said the policies were a good-faith effort to expand the ministry, feed the hungry, clothe the homeless and establish missions overseas.
The church has launched an internal review to make sure it still makes sense, financially, to maintain the policies.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure it’s feasible for the church and our integrity will not be questioned,” Withers said.
Shaw said she does not remember signing the life insurance paperwork so Working 4 You found certified forensic document examiner Wendy Carlson.
“What I’m looking for is the letter formation and the spacing between the letters. I’m looking at the base line of all the letters,” Carlson said.
Carlson is analyzing the signatures in question compared to legitimate signatures. Immediately, Carlson found the bottom of the letter C is higher off the bottom than the H next to it.
“That’s an unconscious habit of yours when you sign your name. You don’t recognize that you’re doing that, you just do it,” Carlson told Shaw during the review.
After reviewing the signatures, Carlson made her decision.
“These signatures of these insurance policies are actually authentic signatures,” Carlson found. “I don’t know the circumstances behind you signing them.”
Shaw told Carlson she was thankful for the review.
“She did a good job and I feel alright,” Shaw said.
If Shaw signed the papers, she wonders why she would do that in the first place, but there’s one thing for certain. She wants it canceled.
“Anyone in their common sense they’re not going to sign for that,” she said.
As for the policy itself, Shaw has tried to gather information, but the insurance agency won’t tell her anything because she’s not the owner — only the insured.
Pastor Withers said he and the church are working closely with the insurance company regarding the policy.
The Arkansas Insurance Department is reviewing the complaint that Shaw filed.