NORTH HAMPTON, Ohio – Police Chief Jarrod Campbell said in his eleven years with the department, he’s rarely seen “an incident this brutal.” Campbell is referring to Sunday’s brutal assault on a pastor by a self-described militant atheist with a criminal past. The incident occurred following a sermon by Rev. Norman Hayes, 57, at the Bridge Community Church in North Hampton.
The suspect, 28-year-old James Maxie, of Springfield, Ohio, was attending the service with his girlfriend. According to Rev. Hayes, Maxie was vocally confrontational during the service as if “looking for an argument.” After the service the couple approached Hayes. She told police that when Hayes asked if Maxie was abusing her, Maxie attacked him, striking him several times in the face in the church hallway.
“I questioned his girlfriend in his presence if she felt safe,” Hayes said. “He was very, very upset that I’d even suggest that he would hurt her. Then he turned around and hurt me very badly.”
Hayes said he feared for his life and begged for the attack to stop. He suffered a broken nose, bruises and three long cuts that required stitches across his face.
Maxie fled into a nearby cornfield after being spotted by officers arriving on scene. He was eventually located hiding behind a home by police and booked into Clark County Jail.
Chief Campbell believes that no weapons were used, and that the injuries on Maxie’s right hand were consistent with repeated punching. He also noted that Maxie was being charged with a felony due to the brutality of the beating and the location in which the beating occurred. “Churches are somewhere where people go to worship their particular religion, and violence is usually the last thing you see,” he said.
Maxie’s criminal history is well documented. He served two years in prison after being convicted of felonious assault. He’s also a convicted sex offender, charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor in Clark County. In 2004, Maxie was charged with four counts of cruelty to animals in Springfield.
According to his Facebook Page, Maxie describes himself as a militant atheist. Just a day before the assault he shared a photo with the caption “I’m proud to be Atheist.” In a statement written to police, Maxie explained his presence at the church on the day of the assault saying he was trying to regain his faith in God. He said he “asked questions about science and faith,” and claimed the statements offended Hayes. Maxie said Hayes said his girlfriend was “going to hell for dating me.”
“We believe there is hope for everyone,” Hayes said, “but we also believe that regardless of that, people need to pay for what they have done, and I hope he has to pay for what he has done. Get put away for a while and not hurt anyone else. In my opinion, the next person won’t be as lucky as I was.”
Maxie is being detained in jail in lieu of a $51,000 bond. He is charged with second-degree felonious assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest