Federal judge sentences man to over 17 years in prison for kidnapping, carjacking Florence pastor

FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) – The man who admitted to kidnapping and carjacking a pastor in Florence will spend nearly 20 years in prison for the crime.

On Friday, a federal judge sentenced Joseph Wright to 17 years and 6 months in prison. Once he is out of prison, he will have five years of supervised release.

Wright ended up changing his plea in June and entered a guilty plea to the kidnapping and carjacking charges.

According to prosecutors, Wright abducted a pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Florence at knifepoint on the morning on Dec. 21, 2021. He reportedly forced the pastor into his vehicle at the church parking lot before speeding off.

Police later found the vehicle in Lumberton about two hours later after the kidnapping.

A sentencing memorandum that was filed on August 9, explains Wright’s history and states that he had fallen on hard times and was homeless.

According to the memorandum, the day before the kidnapping, he was across the street from another church, Florence Baptist Temple, when the congregation was leaving, none of them asked him if he needed help and that bothered him.

“The morning of December 21, 2021, Mr. Wright decided to go inside the Immanuel Baptist Church to ask for help,” the memorandum states. “He was still angry from his recent experiences at the Baptist Temple. Mr. Wright asked a church employee for some help. The church employee told him that they could not help him, and she told him maybe another church in the area could help him.”

The sentencing memo went on to state that “he snapped” and left the church but quickly came back and committed the offenses of kidnapping and carjacking.

According to federal documents, Wright will be allowed to participate in all drug rehabilitation and treatment programs, as well as any vocational and educational programs that are offered by the Bureau of Prisons. The documents show he will also be allowed to serve his sentence as close to North Carolina as possible.

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