Preacher dies after Easter bite by rattler

Associated Press/April 15, 2004

Jonesville, Va. -- A preach-er who refused medical treatment after a rattlesnake bit him during the serpent-handling part of an Easter service has died, authorities said.

The Rev. Dwayne Long, 45, of Rose Hill in far southwestern Virginia just across the state line from Kentucky's Harlan County, was holding a rattle-snake when it bit him on the back of a finger, Lee County Sheriff Gary Parsons said.

Parsons said the congregation prayed for Long, but no one sought medical treatment. Long died Monday at his home.

"We don't anticipate any charges at this time," Parsons said. "That's their belief."

Long was pastor of a Pentecostal church where members interpret serpent-handling as a form of obedience to God. Snake-handlers believe that when people die of a snakebite they receive during a church service, it was simply their time to go.

Long leaves a wife, five children and two grandchildren.

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