'Cocaine' found on Florida pastor dead in hotel room

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The Independent US

Police now believe that drugs could have played a part in the death of Zachery Tims, a Florida megachurch pastor, who was found dead in a New York hotel last Friday.

Reports suggest that an envelope containing a white powder, most likely cocaine, was found on the body after it was discovered by a staff member who had gone to check if Mr Tims had used the minibar at the Times Square hotel.

A star of the Florida Christian community, Mr Tims led the congregation at the New Destiny Christian Centre in Apopka. He also regularly hosted and appeared on Christian television and radio programmes.

Mr Tims started the church in 1996 and by 2005 it had grown big enough to build a $3.4m youth centre. The Orlando Sentinel's website said the church now had more than 7,000 members. It also reported that Mr Tims had been in and out of prison as a young man and hoped the centre would keep youngsters away from drugs and crime.

But even since his conversion from troubled young man to respected preacher, Mr Tims's record had been stained by a year-long affair with a stripper, which was cited in the 2009 divorce from his wife of 15 years, Riva.

Church members have posted messages of sympathy and mourned the preacher's loss on Facebook and Twitter. "We lost one of our leaders," said the Rev Willie Barnes, a Baptist pastor who addressed the congregation at the Destiny centre on Sunday.

"His ministry was very, very powerful, especially to young people," the Sentinel reported him as saying. "He brought a different style of ministry, and it reached a lot of the younger generation because it wasn't so traditional."