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2021: the year that Gwen Shamblin's life, death made news around world

Shamblin Documentary Poster.jpeg
Posted at 1:14 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-05 14:14:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It had been almost two decades since Gwen Shamblin was big news in Middle Tennessee.

But that all changed in 2021 when the Christian diet guru died in a plane crash, along with leaders of her Brentwood church, then became the focus of an HBO Max docuseries.

Shamblin's story was a story longtime NewsChannel 5 viewers may have remembered — about how her Christian diet plan, the Weigh Down Workshop, morphed into what became her own church, the Remnant Fellowship, located in the heart of Brentwood.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Shamblin in 2004 about rumors about how she was viewed within her church.

"Are you a prophet?"

Shamblin's response: "I don't believe I know what my gift name is, so I will tell you I am still wrestling with that. I've been told that for years."

It was a church that some saw as a cult.

Then, the 2003 child-abuse death of a Remnant child had led to questions about the church's teachings on child discipline.

But if people had forgotten about Shamblin, the whole world would be reminded in late May when her small business jet slammed into Percy Priest Lake, shortly after takeoff from Smyrna.

Plane crashes into Percy Priest Lake

Everyone on board was killed, including Shamblin, her husband one-time actor Joe Lara and five leaders of her Remnant Fellowship.

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Authorities search Percy Priest for downed plane

At the time of the crash, documentary filmmaker Marina Zenovich was putting the finishing touches on a documentary series that would expose Shamblin's story to an even wider audience.

"It really took time to process it because it so shocking. We decided we had to open up the series and put the plane crash in and continue filming," Zenovich said.

The docuseries, which aired in late September, was an immediate hit and was immediately denounced by the church as "absurd" and "defamatory."

The trailer for the project described the church like this: "How members of Remnant behave is a bit like handmaids tale and Stepford wives. They want you to be clones of them. It’s all about appearances."

Despite what Shamblin and her family had claimed over the years, NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained Shamblin’s will, a will that leaves everything to her two children.

There was nothing left to her beloved Remnant Fellowship.

Gwen Shamblin's will, potentially worth millions, leaves nothing to her Remnant Fellowship church

In fact, less than two months before marrying Joe Lara, Shamblin had divorced David Shamblin, her husband of 40 years, splitting properties now worth more than $20 million.

Among the properties that the woman of God got to keep in the divorce, our investigation discovered, was an elegant beach house in Destin, Florida — a house that a real estate listing described as “gulf-front living at its finest.”

Located right on the Gulf of Mexico, Shamblin’s beach home — with its four bedrooms and five baths — could be found in a gated community known as Destiny by the Sea.

Property records show the Shamblins paid almost $2 million for it in 2010.

It is now valued by Zillow at more than $4 million.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates also obtained video from a 2019 deposition in a child custody case stemming from Joe Lara's prior relationship.

"I think we are the most highly investigated church in the United States," Shamblin said, referring to Remnant Fellowship.

New Gwen Shamblin video: 'I think we are the most highly investigated church in the United States'

'DCS, CPS investigated' Remnant homes following boy's child abuse death, Gwen Shamblin testified

The Remnant founder was asked about many of the controversies surrounding her church.

"Are you aware that a lot of folks, at least online, expressed that they think Remnant Fellowship is a cult."

Shamblin's answer: "I'm not aware 'a lot.' It's kinda like, "a lot of people,' no. You'd have to define 'a lot.'"

Controversies that dogged her in life now follow her in death.