17 Sep 2008

Third member of Hosanna Church to stand trial for ritual abuse of children

The Advocate - Louisiana
September 17, 2008

by Debra Lemoine | Advocate Florida parishes bureau

HAMMOND — The trial of the third member of a Ponchatoula church accused of molesting children as part of occult rituals likely will be held in early 2009, 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said Tuesday.
Paul Fontenot, 25, of Ponchatoula, is the church member the state anticipates bringing to trial, Perrilloux said. Prosecutors will seek a trial date for early 2009 at Fontenot’s next hearing, on Oct. 15, Perrilloux said.
Fontenot is among the seven members of the now-defunct Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula indicted in 2005 on charges of molesting three children as part of occult rituals.
Two other church members already have been convicted of aggravated rape as a result of the investigation. The convictions carry automatic life sentences in prison.
Most recently, former Hosanna pastor Louis D. Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, was convicted on Sept. 6 of aggravated rape for abusing his two sons. His sentencing is scheduled for October.
Another church member, Austin “Trey” Bernard III, 39, formerly of Hammond, was convicted on Dec. 3 of raping his infant daughter and Lamonica’s two sons. Bernard is now serving a life sentence in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
Fontenot, 21 at the time of his arrest and 19 when the alleged abuse ended, is the brother-in-law of Bernard. According to court records, Fontenot was indicted on four counts of aggravated rape of Lamonica’s younger son and Bernard’s daughter.
Lamonica’s son was 11 years of age or below at the time of the alleged abuse and the girl was age 2 or younger, investigators have said.
Public Defender Reggie McIntyre had left his office for the day late Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. Fontenot is being represented by the Public Defender’s Office.
During the previous trials, Lamonica’s two sons testified that they were lying when they told authorities about the abuse. The boys alleged that their mother and Nicole Bernard, Fontenot’s sister and Trey Bernard’s ex-wife, forced them to lie about the abuse.
On the witness stand at Trey Bernard’s trial, Nicole Bernard testified that her daughter maintains that she was abused. The girl never testified at her father’s trial, but a taped interview of her statement was played in court.
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