A church accused of being a cult is the new owner of the crumbling Wildwood mansion previously owned by rap superstar Nelly.
According to St. Louis County property records, the St. Louis-based Kingdom of God Global Church bought the 10,000 square foot, Tuscan-style pad near Hidden Valley last year. It is hardly the church's only high-value holding in the area.
Run by 49-year-old David E. Taylor, Kingdom of God Global Church also owns a five-bedroom, nine bathroom residence on Timpaige Drive in Chesterfield, according to county property records. That house has a 600-square-foot pool. Zillow values the home at $2.1 million.
The church also owns a five-bedroom, 4 1/2 bathroom mansion near Babler State Park, in Chesterfield, according to county property records. Realtor.com values that house at $1.7 million. In 2021, the church also bought a plot of land that appears to be undeveloped adjacent to the park.
A voicemail left at the church's main number wasn't returned. It's unknown what the church plans to use the Nelly's old mansion for or if it is currently inhabited.
However, there are some clues in the church's history as to what they may have planned for the property.
A project manager with Creative Design and Build in Maryland Heights was contacted by the church to do work on the house on Timpaige. In a letter he sent to the City of Chesterfield, he states that the church had "20 to 30 people staying at the property zoned single family." The letter ends: "This is a very large two-million-dollar property with a lot of shady things going on. Probably needs to be re-zoned commercial for how they are using it also."
The project manager says he saw a Bentley and Rolls-Royce were parked in the garage and there were six beds in each bedroom. He was told a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for young people was being operated out of the house.
The project manager says the person he dealt with at the house was asking for extensive work to be done on a multi-level deck as well as on a drain to prevent water from coming into the house. He told them this structural work would require his crew to pull permits.
"We told them we were going to need to pull permits, [and] they basically threw us off the property," the project manager says. "They did not want inspectors to come by."
The project manager had already been hired to do some more minor work repairing windows at the house in Wildwood that Nelly used to own. After the incident at the house on Timpaige, he pulled out of that job.
About five miles away from Timpaige Drive, the church bought a mansion on Wildhorse Meadow Drive from a member of the Imo's family in December 2017. Neighbors say ten or more high end vehicles were regularly parked outside.
"I thought maybe a celebrity lived there, or some sports guy," said one neighbor who didn't want to give his name.
But then neighbors started noticing more unusual activity at the house. Delivery trucks regularly dropped off pallets of bottled water. The amount of trash and recycling on the curb on pick-up days was well beyond normal, says Bill Devers. Devers is a trustee of the neighborhood's homeowners association and lives a few doors down from the house.
He says that he consistently saw families with young kids getting out of vans, their belongings in plastic bags, and going into the house.
Devers estimates as many as 40 people lived in the house at any given time.
"People would leave on Saturday and a new group would come on Sunday," he says.
The house's ownership was publicly listed as Kingdom of God Global Church. Devers says another neighbor started to put the pieces together and, pretending to be a potential follower, called the church's prayer hotline.
"You call in and they'll call you back and pray with you," Devers says. "It's fee based."
Taylor, the church's leader, has made numerous wild claims, including being able to raise people from the dead. According to his website, he also offers over-the-phone dream interpretation.
"Apostle David E. Taylor is a master dream interpreter and dream officer," the website reads."He has established a 24/7/365 Dream interpretation phone line to help you understand the dreams you dream!"
Devers is well aware of the dream line. "You call them and talk about your dreams," he says. "And they'll help you interpret what Jesus is actually saying to you in your dreams."
Devers says that he really started to get concerned about what was going on when the FBI came to his house asking questions about the property.
"When the FBI comes to your door and starts asking questions about your neighbor, it makes us stand up and start thinking what the hell is going on here?"
The church sold the Wildhorse Meadows mansion earlier this year.
In total, Taylor's church owns at least $4 million in real estate in west county. Plus, earlier this year the church spent $8.3 million on a house in Tampa Bay. Its previous occupant was Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, co-owner of the Buccaneers NFL team.
"You got to ask yourself the question," Devers says. "Where'd the money come from?"
According to OpenCorporates, the primary address for the Kingdom of God Global Church is an apartment in Spanish Lake.
Devers isn't the first person to ask questions about the church.
In 2019, Southgate, Michigan, News-Herald reporter Colin Maloney published a lengthy investigation of Joshua Media Industries International, another organization run by Taylor. Much of that investigation concerned a property owned by Joshua Media southwest of Detroit where Taylor allegedly ran "a ministry machine … focused on bringing in as much money as possible."
An individual who left the church told Maloney that numerous people spent hours a day cold calling and messaging people on Facebook to solicit donations. Some of these people lived at the church, sleeping on mattresses or pieces of plywood, the former member said. There was an expectation to send 1,000 Facebook messages and collect $500 a day. Maloney reports that according to tax records the church brings in millions of dollars a year in Michigan.
The News-Herald piece quotes individuals calling Taylor's operation a cult.
In a 2014 deposition, Taylor struggled to explain what several properties the church owned in St. Louis were used for. He described a house the church owned in Black Jack as a place where people did volunteer work using computers. "It’s more of a start-up place like … you know, like a small business that Americans do, they start up in the garage."
In that same deposition, Taylor referred to the house the church owned in Chesterfield, presumably the $2.1 million mansion, as, "a ministry residence” and “residential center." He went on to say the church had barbecues and pool parties there "for the ministry."
In the 2014 deposition Taylor described himself as a "very frugal person" even as he was asked about the thousands of dollars he spent on Louis Vuitton and Versace. "Macy's don't have the kind of suits that I wear," he said.
The 2019 News-Herald story quotes award winning gospel music recording artist Vicki Yohe, who says that Taylor "preys on women.” Yohe alleges that Taylor threatened to release revealing pictures he had of her if she spoke out about the way he treated her.
In 2017, Joshua Media Ministries International sued the St. Louis Port Authority and St. Louis County over the county's sale of the Jamestown Mall to the Port Authority. According to the St. Louis American, Joshua Media Ministries International claimed to already have been in the early stages of buying the property when it was sold to the Port Authority.
Taylor also features on a billboard on Interstate 70 across from Lambert Airport. On it Taylor is seen standing in front of empty wheelchairs and unused crutches, the implication being that they belong to parishioners he's healed.
As part of the 2014 deposition Taylor confirmed under oath that he also goes by "the apostle."