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Indeed, Jordi's religious fanaticism apparently deepened in Pensacola. Spiderman Scott Mulholland, a forensics investigator whose love of climbing inspired him to legally change his name to that of the agile Marvel superhero, can't forget the day he met Jordi at First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola in the spring of 1999. The Minnesotan was dressed in camouflage pants and had allowed his light-brown facial hair to grow into a scraggly beard. Mulholland, a former drug addict who credits the church with helping him kick his habit, didn't want to judge Jordi by his rough appearance. The former Marine struck up conversation with the new parishioner. They soon discovered that they had the military in common.
Jordi seemed to open up, so Mulholland invited him to a Bible-study class at his home on Saturday, May 22, 1999.
The session proved less than productive. "He became very cold, callous," Mulholland remembers. "He had this perverted doctrine."
"I don't believe in miracles," Mulholland remembers Jordi saying.
"What about Jesus giving the man 20/20 vision?" Mulholland asked.
That's when Jordi stood up and walked briskly out of the house. Mulholland followed. Jordi then presented him with a brown paper bag. "I want to give you this," he remembers Jordi saying. Jordi opened the sack and threw the contents at Mulholland. "If you believe in miracles," he yelled, "then handle this!"
A rattlesnake spilled out.
Mulholland brushed off the snake, fortuitously avoiding a bite. "I'll give you ten seconds to get out of here," he told his guest.
"Mark 16," Jordi then allegedly said, referring to a biblical passage that says of God's followers: "They will pick up serpents [with their hands]... it will not harm them."
And he left.
But Jordi wasn't finished. The next morning, while sitting in a pew with his family during a service at First Pentecostal Church, Mulholland looked over to see Jordi walking toward the pastor, a brown paper bag in his hands. Mulholland knew exactly what was in that bag.
The former Marine jumped up, signaled to the ushers, and confronted Jordi before he could make it to the altar. Together, he and the ushers escorted Jordi outside. A parishioner called the Escambia County Sheriff's Office, which issued Jordi a trespassing warning. The deputies knew the man's reputation. Jordi had previously caused similar disturbances at a flea market and a Greyhound bus station, inciting others into shouting matches about God and religion.
"He has a very elusive spirit," Mulholland recalls. "It wasn't until I got to know him that I realized he had psychological problems. When you first talk to him, he's real nice, a Ted Bundy. Everything in the name of God, he said. But there was no basis in Scripture. He was just free-flowing and had his own concepts. That's a very dangerous person."
Mulholland never saw Jordi again. That's because the man without miracles had taken his family more than 600 miles south to start a new life in Broward County.
On a June afternoon, Lydia Daniels sits behind the cash register of Daniels Bible Book Store, a pink building on the corner of Hallandale Beach Boulevard and U.S. 441, in a rundown section of Hollywood. Wearing a purple, African-style dress and head garb, the 57-year-old Daniels greets customers as they enter the store. "Welcome," she says. "God bless you."
Daniels smiles hesitantly. "I knew Stephen," she says. "He was a good man, a family man, a religious man."
After moving from Pensacola, Jordi worked at an Amoco gas station and rented an apartment in Hallandale Beach, within walking distance of Daniels' business. The family was growing. His first son, Noah, was going on 2 years old, and Charlotte was pregnant with the couple's second child. The family regularly attended Bible study at Daniels' bookstore. During one session, on Tuesday, December 12, 2000, Noah was having trouble staying still and keeping quiet. Jordi took him outside. At the time, a man named Carlos Restrepo was in his backyard, which faces the bookstore. At 9 p.m., Restrepo would later tell police, he heard a child crying. He looked over and saw a small boy lying on the sidewalk. A man later identified as Jordi stood above him. Jordi began to hit the boy in the face repeatedly.
When Restrepo yelled, ordering the man to stop, Jordi picked up his son and went back into the bookstore, according to the report. Restrepo ran to a neighbor's house and called police. Broward sheriff's deputies arrived to investigate. Noah's cheeks were red, they observed, and a large mark could be seen below the boy's right eye. Deputy Anthony Lott questioned Charlotte about her husband's style of discipline. She told the deputy that the couple used a method called "time out" when their son misbehaved. He asked her to demonstrate. "Time out consists of a maneuver in which the child is seated with both legs stretched out together," Lott wrote in his report. "Stephen Jordi then forces the head of Noah Jordi down to his knees in a sitting position until the head touches the knees. When this was demonstrated briefly in my presence, the child wailed out, crying in agony. Charlotte Jordi advised that Stephen Jordi will do this until the child stops crying or until about five minutes have expired."