30 Sep 2008

4 girls from Alamo compound to stay with state

Bradenton Herald - September 29, 2008

by | Associated Press Writer

Four girls taken from an evangelist's compound in southwest Arkansas will remain in state custody after their parents waived a probable-cause hearing, a state official said Monday.

Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said that parents of four of the six girls taken from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound waived their right to go before a judge.

The girls were two sets of sisters taken from the compound, she said. An adjudication hearing on whether the girls will stay in state care will be held Oct. 21.

Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson ruled Friday that the state had probable cause to keep two other girls in custody. A hearing on the future of those girls will be held Oct. 20.

Alamo was arrested in Arizona last week on charges he took minors across state lines for sexual purposes. He has waived his right to fight extradition to Arkansas.

Nine girls were assessed by state workers at the compound because of allegations of sexual abuse. Six girls, ages 10 to 17, were removed because officials were worried they were in immediate danger.

Federal agents and Arkansas state police who raided the Fouke headquarters of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries on Sept. 20 said they were seeking evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex.

The state will continue interviewing family members of the girls to determine whether it is in their best interest to be reunited with their parents, Munsell said.

"We're still in the process of gathering facts and interviewing family members, not for the investigative piece, but for the protective piece," Munsell said. "The question is not simply will they return to where they came (from), but where will they go to next?"

Alamo has said the age of consent to marry is puberty and there's a mandate in the Bible for girls marrying young, but has denied any involvement with pornography.

Alamo and his wife Susan were street preachers along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in 1966 before forming a commune near Saugus, Calif. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982 and Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

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