Pastor Jamie Coots, snake-handling TV preacher, dies of viper’s bite


A snake-handling TV preacher died on Saturday of a snake bite.

Pastor Jamie Coots, the star of “Snake Salvation,” was bitten on the right hand at his Kentucky church, Middlesborough police said.

The Pentecostal holy man refused to go to the hospital or accept any medical treatment, police said.

Coots, whose show appeared on National Geographic’s television channel, believed snake handling was a commandment from God and a viper’s bite was God’s will.

“When I first started church I said if I ever went to a hospital or a doctor over a snake bite I would quit church,” Coots said in one episode.



Jamie Coots, pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name Church of Middlesboro, Ky., died Saturday of a snake bite.

He had previously survived a bite that cost him most of the middle finger on his right hand. Instead seeking medical attention for the gruesome injury, he let it rot to black, exposing a quarter inch of bone before it broke off.

He kept the stub of the finger in a glass jar for his wife.

“To me it’s as much of a commandment from God when he said, ‘they shall take up serpents’ as it was when he ‘thou shall not commit adultery,” Coots said on the show of snake handling.

Coots was just as resolute on Saturday, according to police.

Cops and medical crews were called about 8:30 p.m. to a church for reports of a snakebite victim, but Coots had already left, police said.

Pastor Jamie Coots refused medical attention on Saturday after he was bitten by a snake, Middlesborough, Ky., police say.


Pastor Jamie Coots refused medical attention on Saturday after he was bitten by a snake, Middlesborough, Ky., police say.

They later found Coots at home and tried to talk him into medical treatment, but he wouldn’t accept it. The crews finally left about 9:10 p.m.

They returned about an hour later with the Bell County deputy coroner and found Coots dead.

Snake handling has been outlawed in most states, and Coots had made it his mission to carry on the tradition.

He was sentenced in February 2013 to a year of probation for crossing into Tennessee with venomous snakes, and he was also arrested in 2008 for keeping 74 snakes in his home, National Geographic reported.

The channel praised the pastor’s “devout religious convictions despite the health and legal peril he often faced” in a statement.

“Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith,” the statement said. “We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

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