4 Nov 2010

Prosecutor recounts Louisiana ritualistic child sex case

The San Francisco Examiner - August 7, 2009

Abuse in Louisiana ritualistic child sex case involving fundamentalist-cult church

By: DEBORAH HASTINGS |Associated Press

There were times when prosecutor Don Wall, a man not easily shocked, simply closed the file and stopped reading.

He knew he had the makings of a very good case — not the least of which were volumes of written confessions. But page after page filled with ungodly details burned his eyes and seared his soul. Looking at them made him bone-weary.

"I could only read about 15 pages at a time," said Wall, assistant district attorney of Louisiana's rural Tangipahoa Parish, north of New Orleans. "It just really wore on me. It just made me tired."

Of all the bizarre tales of ritualistic child abuse accompanied by sacrifices and group sex, Wall's case stands alone — his was proven in court. It is a story of sexual hedonism in a house of worship, some of it perpetrated by parents against their own children.

Former pastor Louis Lamonica was sentenced last year to four concurrent life terms for having sex with his two sons. Another church member was sentenced to three life sentences for systematically abusing his daughter until she was 5. A third pleaded guilty to sexual battery of the same girl and received a 10-year sentence. A fourth awaits trial.

"I had McMartin (the California preschool scandal) thrown in my face a lot during all this," Wall said. "That's the main reason I kept this devil worshipping stuff to a small portion of the trial. Worshipping the devil is not illegal. Child molestation is. That's what I focused on."

In excruciating detail, the ex-leader of Hosanna Church in tiny Ponchatoula on the northwest bank of Lake Pontchartrain, wrote in a journal how he and others stood shoulder to shoulder in the youth hall, passing children to each other, committing every imaginable sex act upon them.

"Everybody got a turn," Lamonica said. "It was like nobody missed out, including the women."

The Hosanna faithful, once a thriving congregation, had dwindled to a dozen or so families over the past decade. They abandoned their First Assembly of God affiliation and whitewashed the windows of its sanctuary and school.

Behind the glass, members abused children from infants to toddlers and beyond, splattered animal blood and dabbled in devil worship, Lamonica and others set down in thick journals written in hopes of forgiveness. The books were later seized by sheriff's deputies.

The investigation started in 2005, when Lamonica made a trip to his local sheriff in nearby Livingston Parish.

Settling in a chair, he matter-of-factly ticked off a list of offenses committed by himself and others in his flock: anal, oral and vaginal sex with children; sexual acts with a dog; wiping victims with cat blood.

After spending two hours being videotaped by detectives, Lamonica stood to go. He hoped for plea deal, he said. He was arrested and held without bail until trial.

Meanwhile, deputies searched the church, his home and the homes of others. They found Lamonica's 260-page confessional, others' written pleas for atonement, and a faded pentagram on the youth hall floor.

The admitted sins covered about four years, beginning in 1999 and involved several children, some of whom were now grown. Working with the FBI, investigators spoke to the oldest alleged victims. None claimed they were abused.

"I interviewed one young man... He had tears running down his cheeks, but he said nothing happened," Wall recounted. "I don't think the older ones wanted to get involved. They'd seen the firestorm in the media. Who wants to get calls from reporters saying, 'What happened to you?'"

At trial, Lamonica recanted his confessions, saying he'd been coerced by the church's new pastor. Jurors didn't believe it, nor did they accept the testimony of his sons, who said they'd lied about being abused as children — but had earlier been interviewed on videotape telling a series of therapists and agents about childhoods in which sex with their father was ever-present.

After three men went to jail, and the hysteria died, Wall saw beyond the banality.

"This was just a situation where the men were pedophiles and they all happened to be in the same place together," he said.

In a sense, "it's like if I met you and said, `Do you like Mexican food?' And you said, `Yes, I do.' So we went and got some Mexican food. I know that sounds like a terribly oversimplified way of putting it, but it's true. That's how it was to them.

"Do I think it's incredibly weird? Yeah. Do I think it's unbelievable? No."

This article was found at:



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Sex Abuse Trial Takes Bizarre Twist

Judge takes up issue if trial of Sioux City man can include satanism

Former pastor confessed to ritualized sexual abuse of children

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

Ex-pastor gets concurrent life terms in child sex case


  1. Babies in black dresses abused while laying in a Pentagram, drinking cat's blood and Satanic writings on church walls: The twisted confessions of the pedophile pastor from Louisiana who inspired 'True Detective'

    By LAURA COLLINS IN AMITE, LOUISIANA, Daily Mail UK 17 March 2014 

    At 1.15pm on 16 May, 2005, Pastor Louis Lamonica Jr strolled into Detective Stan Carpenter’s office in Livingston, Louisiana and made his confession. What he had to say ‘floored’ the detective. 

    The pastor of Hosanna Church in nearby Hammond claimed he had performed satanic rituals, child abuse and animal sacrifice in the church and that he was not alone. 

    He named his fellow perpetrators and he named their child victims. It marked the beginning of the Hosanna Church Scandal and exposed a vicious pedophile ring in a case whose shockwaves reverberate in Lamonica’s former parish of Tangipahoe to this day. 

    This week writer Nic Pizzolatto, hinted that this case was his inspiration for HBO's massive hit ‘True Detective,' in which detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, uncover a string of ritualistic satanic murders committed under the cover of a powerful evangelical establishment in South Louisiana.

    Now, for the first time, MailOnline has seen the full shocking confession that fired the starting pistol on the most notorious scandal in recent Church history, reviewed hundreds of pages of Lamonica’s own writing and spoken to the officer who took the pastor’s confession that day. 

    Major Carpenter, 62, recalled: ‘Lamonica walked into my office and sat down, just as calm as you and me talking now. 

    ‘I was Detective Supervisor at the time. When he came in he basically thought that after he told us what he did he was just going to go on about his business of the day.

    ‘Listening to him, here where we’re all Christian, it kind of floored me. You’re talking about a man who professes to be a preacher, a pastor and a church leader abusing children and worshiping Satan.

    ‘I’m an old guy. I’m coming up to retire in a couple of years. I thought I’d seen it all and sometimes I reckon you have seen it all, only in different ways. Then something like this happens. It stays with you.’ 

    In his confession, seen by MailOnline, Lamonica sat down and announced: ‘I want to talk about the dedication (to Satan) of a baby. It was held at the church, upstairs, in what was called the Youth Room.’

    He went onto describe a room where all the windows were covered in black, ‘like black paper, keep it dark.’ 

    There was a pentagram in the middle of the floor, he said and a book of ‘Spells and Temptations.’ On this occasion, he claimed, there were five others present: Austin ‘Trey’ Bernard III, then 36, Lamonica’s wife Robin, 45, church member Paul Fontenot, 21, sheriff’s deputy Chris Labat, 24 and Patricia ‘Trish’ Pierson, 56. All but LeBat later pleaded guilty to charges ranging from aggravated rape to sexual battery to obstruction of justice.Labat was charged with child pornography but subsequently the charges were dismissed. 

    Lamonica stated: ‘They would start off like a church service but it was Satanic music. There were candles burning, dark, red candleholders. And the dedication of baby A into Satan with this Pentagram, she was put in the middle, in a black dress.’ 

    He described chanting around the child – Trey Bernard’s daughter, barely one year old at the time – before killing a cat, draining its blood and each drinking it.

    He claimed they did not make the child drink because she was too young and instead took off her dress and sprinkled the blood over her.

    These meetings, according to Lamonica, took place once every two to three months. 

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  2. On other occasions ‘certain girls would be picked and have sexual relationships with. The guys would line up, one by one, they would come and they would have sex with that girl. And the same if there was a woman…they would have [a] homosex (sic) relationship and oral sex, acting like one was a man and one was a woman.’

    He claimed that there was ‘feces laid around. There was urine.’

    And he claimed that during these satanic rituals he would become ‘distorted’ by the Devil and that demons would change him into an animal – ‘a snake, a fox, wolf, spiders.’

    His words are reminiscent of the notion of Courir de Mardi Gras, central to True Detective’s version of Satanism and the occult and explained by Cohle as ‘a very rural sense of Mardi Gras,  you know, the men on horses, animal masks and such.’

    In the show, that Cajun culture is twisted into the killer’s satanic ritual of posing his victims with antlers. 

    In the Hosanna Church case this translated into talk of animal masks, hoods and gowns. 

    Each member of this group, this pedophile ring, had a nickname, he claimed. Trish Pierson was ‘Bluey-Black’ after the colors on the spell book she carried. 

    He called his own wife, Robin, The Lady because she was an Organizer and made sure ‘stuff goes right.’ 

    Trey was the 'Mastermind' and Lamonica himself was 'Chief'.

    Lamonica stated that the secret ceremonies had started in 1999 and carried onto 2003 when he and his wife separated and he moved out of the church building. 
    Bernard’s wife, Nicole, left Bernard and took their daughter with her to Ohio.

    Two days before Lamonica walked into Major Carpenter’s office, Nicole had telephoned Tangipahoe Parish Sherriff Daniel Edwards – the man initially tasked with investigating the crimes that had taken place in his jurisdiction – with similar allegations. 

    The news quickly broke in this small, deeply religious stretch of Louisiana. 

    The church had a strong legacy in the area. Lamonica’s father, Louis Lamonica Sr founded it and was a respected and much loved pastor. The church had thrived for more than twenty years. 

    Lamonica’s claim that the church had converted to Satanism in 2000 was profoundly, indescribably shocking. 

    The building that had once been the heart of a community became a dark void at its center. It became a crime scene. Sheriff Edwards announced that there could be ‘as many as 25 victims.’

    A bond of trust had been irrevocably broken. Here, after all, was a ring including not only a man of the cloth but a man of the law too. For Steve Brown, a former church member who testified at trial, it suddenly made sense of Sheriff Deputy Chris Labat's inaction when he went to him with concerns about claims Bernard had made to him. 

    Bernard had confessed to abusing his child, according to Brown's testimony, but when he told Labat the deputy claimed he couldn't do anything without physical evidence.

    When Bernard shared a notebook in which he wrote of the abuse, Brown took the writing he described as 'stomach churning' to Labat and was left wondering why nothing came of it. It did not occur to him that the gun-toting law man was himself one of the group which, Bernard later referred to as 'perverted musketeers' - one for all and all for one

    One by one the church members named by Lamonica were rounded up and interrogated. With each interview the claims became more shocking.

    Bestiality was added to the already sickening mix as Bernard and later Lamonica's own sons claimed that he had sex with the family's pet poodle, 

    Austin Trey Bernard’s interrogation, also seen by MailOnline, shows how deep the pull of religion is to this community.

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  3. One of the Detectives questioning Bernard was himself a pastor who paused the police interview to pray: ‘Father, I just come to you in the Mighty Name of the Lord, Jesus Christ. 

    ‘I invited your Spirit to be in this place. Oh, God, I prayed before I came to this room tonight. I drove in, that you would use me as your instrument. 

    ‘That through all these things that I would be able to arrive at the truth. Oh, God, O pray for Trey right now. 

    ‘I pray that you would give him courage, Father in the midst of his fear to do the right thing.’

    Bernard had already confessed to abusing his own daughter since she was two months old.

    He was the first of the Hosanna Church accused to be convicted of abuse. 

    There are echoes of the Hosanna Church case throughout ‘True Detective.’ One of the real life accused was Paul Fontenot. A child victim in the TV show is Marie Fontenot. 

    Austin Bernard was a key protagonist in the real case. Austin Ferrar is a fleeting character in the fictitious one.

    But as the Hosanna Church case progressed its parallels with the fiction it inspired diverge and it becomes, if anything, less credible and more disturbing than anything Nic Pizzolatto dreamt up.

    By the time the case reached Amite Courthouse, Louisiana in the summer of 2008, two competing narratives had emerged – neither of them gave credence to a Satanic cult though that was the story that stuck publicly. 

    To the prosecutor, District Attorney Don Wall, the case had nothing to do with the occult - any reference to that was simply subterfuge and an attempt by Lamonica to wriggle out of his own guilt by somehow claiming to have been ‘compelled’ by Satan. 

    It was pedophilia - brutal and sustained and grim.

    Lamonica’s sons, now 18 and 20, had given graphic accounts of long-term abuse at the hands of their father, Bernard – with whom it emerged, Lamonica was engaged in a sexual relationship. 

    They also described occasions in which they were subjected to various abuses as they were passed between their father, Bernard and Paul Fontenot At times they had claimed their mother and Trish Pierson were present. 

    But defender Michael Thiel came up with an altogether more bizarre account in which he cast his client as the victim of a Christian cult lead by a preacher named Lois Mowbray, then 54. 

    He alleged that this ‘false prophet’ had taken over and driven all but a small number of worshipers from Hosanna Church and that this became her cult – isolated and obsessed by her notion of ‘cleansing’ and ‘generational curse,’ which rendered all guilty of the sins of their forefathers and ‘Altar Calls’ in which members of the congregation were called to publicly confess their sins so that she could cleanse them of their demons. 

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  4. At the end of these ceremonies the ‘cleansed’ had to vomit out their demons.  

    Mr Thiel claimed that she was a charismatic who had brainwashed his client and family into making a false confession.

    ‘There was something cult, evil and sinister going on at the church,’ Mr Thiel told the court in his opening statement. ‘And that evil, sinister, presence was personified by a self-proclaimed prophet. A person who professes to have a direct connection to God. A person who likened herself to be the second Moses. 

    'Someone who was destined to lead Tangipahoa Parish out of Egypt and away from Pharoahs. And supposed Prophet used her claimed connection to God to manipulate, coerce, control and exert authority and power.’

    Mowbray was arrested for failure to report child abuse. Alhough this is not a crime in Louisiana if you are a pastor, she was not officially qualified as such.
    Charges against her were dropped.

    She had instructed Lamonica to write down his sins in order to ‘cleanse’ himself through confession. 

    This, rather than going to authorities, was her reaction to his tales of violently abusing his sons. 

    There is no mention of Satan or any of the rituals, the animals masks or transformations in any of the more than 200 self-pitying pages Lamonica wrote detailing what he did to his children and who he did it with.

    State Police and the FBI who were called to investigate the church found no DNA evidence of animal blood, no Satanic scrawls in the youth room visible only under 'black light' as Lamonica had claimed and no faint outline of a pentagram scrubbed from the floor as some reported. 

    Lamonica claimed his confession was false and forced. His sons recanted their own accounts on the stand. 

    But ultimately it was the bleak plotline of abuse, not the outlandish fictions of Satanism and the occult, or the power of a ‘false prophet,’ that the jury who convicted him and the judge who sentenced him believed. 

    Lamonica is currently serving four life sentences, to run concurrently. He has had a petition to appeal denied.Bernard received three consecutive life sentences.

    Today, there is still a church on the site - the Christian Life Assembly of God, under the leadership of Rev Gary W Yates.
    In the aftermath of the scandal there were calls to raze Hosanna Church. One company wanted to buy it, bulldoze it and build a hospital on the site. 

    But ultimately Hurricane Katrina saved anyone the trouble of gutting the building so associated with shame and scandal and it was cleared out not by a contractor but by an Act of God.

    In the closing scenes of True Detective, Rust Cohle describes everything that has gone before as the only story there is - a story of ‘light versus dark.’

    For Major Carpenter the same is true of the case he lived through nearly a decade ago. 

    He said: ‘There’s Good and Evil. I guess sometimes evil does overcome. But I like to think that God sorts things out. It’s up to the people involved to see if they can make things straight with God before they meet Him.’