Minister Dies From Snakebite During Easter Service At Church

POSTED: 10:59 am EDT April 14, 2004

ROSE HILL, Va. (AP) -- The minister of a church in far southwest Virginia has died after being bitten by a snake during church services.

Authorities say the Reverend Dwayne Long of Rose Hill was bitten by a rattlesnake Sunday afternoon and refused to seek medical treatment. He died early Monday at his home.

Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons says Long was a minister at a Pentecostal church where members practice serpent-handling.

Parsons says Long was holding a rattlesnake during an Easter service when the snake bit him on the back of a finger. He says the congregation prayed for the minister, but no one -- including Long -- sought medical treatment.

The sheriff says he doubts any charges will be filed, because, in his words, "it's their belief."