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Search for missing BK ‘nuns’ stretches from Kings County to Kingstree, SC

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BROOKLYN (PIX11) – It wasn’t easy finding 79-year old Vivian Sannicola in her South Carolina neighborhood.  The “subway nun” from Brooklyn has apparently retired to a community near Kingstree, after decades  of playing the role of Right Reverend Vivian Jenkins in lower Manhattan and midtown.

“She’ll usually be on the passenger side of a blue Ford Expedition,” said the new owner of a house in Kingstree, South Carolina, where Sannicola had been living the last couple of years.  “She’ll be smoking a cigarette.”

Sannicola has been staying with one of the 46 children of the late “Bishop” Devernon LeGrand, who died in a New York State prison in 2006, at the age of 82.  LeGrand was convicted in 1977 of stomping to death two, teenaged sisters in 1976, along with the murder of one of his wives, Ernestine Timmons, in 1970.  He was suspected of having a role in the disappearance of many other young women who lived in his home—served his sexual appetites at night—and dressed as phony nuns by day to beg for money.

LeGrand presided over a house of depravity on Brooklyn Avenue, which was registered as St. John’s Pentecostal Church of our Lord.  In the mid-1970’s, he was earning about $250,000 a year with his nun scam and owned several Brooklyn properties, along with a 58-acre farm upstate.

Prosecutors proved to a jury in 1977 that he had dumped the remains of some of his murder victims in a lake near his upstate property, not far from Liberty, New York.

Now, the adult children who grew up in the house—and lost their moms—want to know the story behind the women’s disappearances.

“I just want to know what happened to my mom,” said Cheyama LeGrand, who last saw her mother when she was about 4 years old.

LeGrand told PIX 11 when she was 12, one of Bishop LeGrand’s older sons revealed to Cheyama that he’d helped her mother escape from the preacher’s grip.

“My mother told that same brother, ‘Whatever I do, wherever I go, just tell my girls that I love them,’” Cheyama LeGrand said.

Cheyama LeGrand said while the words caused her some pain, she felt good that her mother loved her.  Yet she’s haunted by doubt that her mother, Bernice Williams, really escaped.

Williams, originally from Sumter, South Carolina, may not have escaped Bishop LeGrand’s wrath.

Before Devernon LeGrand died in prison, Cheyama confronted him.  “I said, ‘Daddy, I’m asking you a question.  Did you kill my mother, Daddy?’ “

The daughter sais LeGrand responded, “I promise you.  He said he promised me that he didn’t kill her.”

Cheyama reached out to PIX 11, hoping we could track down the remains that were dredged from Lake Briscoe in 1977.  She would like DNA testing done, to find out if her mother’s bones could be among the remains.

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