Red Barn Storage and Warehouse owner Paul Barrenger, right, takes the stand in the civil division of the Franklin County Superior Court to deny charges of fraud and theft brought by the Rev. Daniel Lokanga, far left, who alleges the company owners unlawfully disposed of items he intended to send to his native Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Leah Ede)

Red Barn Storage and Warehouse owner Paul Barrenger, right, takes the stand in the civil division of the Franklin County Superior Court to deny charges of fraud and theft brought by the Rev. Daniel Lokanga, far left, who alleges the company owners unlawfully disposed of items he intended to send to his native Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Leah Ede)

Paul and Jane Barrenger, owners of Red Barn Storage and Warehouse, took the stand July 9 to defend themselves against charges of fraud and theft in a suit brought by the Rev. Daniel Lokanga in December 2011.

Lokanga had a storage container at the Red Barn when the Barrengers purchased the site from former owner Albert Belval, a co-defendant.

Lokanga, a Catholic priest who, for years, served Holy Angels and Ascension parishes in St. Albans and Georgia, has sued the trio, claiming items donated to him for shipment to his native Democratic Republic of Congo were taken, sold or damaged while housed at Red Barn.

On the stand, Paul Barrenger said he told Lokanga he would empty the storage container unless the priest removed it or signed a lease within 30 days.

Barrenger also said he never intimidated or threatened Lokanga as alleged, and that there was no written or verbal agreement between the parties.

Eventually, Barrenger did open the container and sell items at a consignment shop run by the couple. Jane Barrenger testified the value of those items was $254.

The sales ceased when he became aware Lokanga wanted the items, Paul Barrenger said.

In December 2011, a judge ordered Barrenger  allow Lokanga access to the Red Barn to gather and remove his property. During his testimony, Barrenger said he allowed Lokanga and his supporters full access to the property except for boxes of confidential documents stored at the site.

Barrenger said the container was empty when Lokanga and others came in January 2012 and that he never placed anything in the container. In previous testimony, Lokanga supporters said items, such as computer equipment, were replaced.

Three witnesses previously said Barrenger made 40 trips to the dump with Lokanga’s donations. Barrenger claimed he only threatened to trash the items: “I said I would take it to the dump. How they embellished, that is their business,” he testified.

During his initial testimony, Barrenger said Lokanga was free to retrieve his property any time. However, under cross-examination, he admitted retrieval was possible “as long as they met certain standards,” including signing a release form.

Albert Belval, who testified in a St. Albans civil court case last Tuesday, owned the Red Barn when the Rev. Daniel Lokanga first rented a storage unit there. Lokanga is suing the current owners as well as Belval for fraud and theft. (Photo by Michelle Monroe)

Albert Belval, who testified in a St. Albans civil court case last Tuesday, owned the Red Barn when the Rev. Daniel Lokanga first rented a storage unit there. Lokanga is suing the current owners as well as Belval for fraud and theft. (Photo by Michelle Monroe)

“I just wanted to say: ‘You took your container, you took your property, and we’re done,'” Barrenger testified.

Asked why he didn’t send written notice to Lokanga before putting his property up for sale, Barrenger said it wasn’t necessary because, “that was so old and never dealt with.”

Having at one point gone to Holy Angels Parish to look for Lokanga with Belval, Barrenger said he did not know where to send written notice. “I didn’t pay attention to where it was in St. Albans,” he testified.

Kim Gaboury, a former commercial tenant, previously said she witnessed Lokanga’s property being removed from the Red Barn site. The Barrengers’ attorney, Chad Bonanni, attempted to introduce testimony about animosity between Gaboury and the Barrengers, but the judge upheld an objection from Lokanga’s attorney, Luke Richter.

Jane Barrenger testified that after Gaboury vacated her rental, display cases belonging to the Barrengers were missing.

Gaboury’s husband, Steven, was the last witness to testify and said he saw Barrenger towing a Dodge Durango from the container with a tractor.

He also testified he spent about 30 minutes helping Barrenger remove items from the container, including luggage and bags of clothing that he later saw Barrenger and others sorting into piles.

Steven Gaboury said he suggested the Barrengers donate some of the items to Georgia Recycle, a thrift store, and that Jane Barrenger instructed him to take some of items there.

Jane Barrenger testified the only clothing sold at the consignment shop came from family members and that none of the clothing was from Lokanga’s container.

She also acknowledged mistakenly placing some of Lokanga’s items in the consignment shop, which her husband helped remove.

Last Tuesday was the final day of testimony in the case, and Judge Dennis Pearson promised a decision as soon as possible, after suggesting the attorneys keep post-trial filings to a minimum.