January 12, 2013
By Andy Davis
Four members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries accused of failing to protect girls in the church from physical and sexual abuse have asked for five people to be added as defendants in a lawsuit over the claims.
Ministry members Donn Wolf, Steve Lovellette, Ron Decker and Sonny Brubach are among the defendants in the lawsuit by seven women who say they were abused by ministry leader Tony Alamo.
The women have dropped their claims against the four church members, but the church members remain as defendants in the case because other defendants have filed claims against them.
In a filing in U.S. District Court in Texarkana on Thursday, an attorney for the four members asked Judge Susan Hickey for permission to add five people as defendants, saying information uncovered during preparation for trial indicates those people bear at least some of the responsibility for any abuse the seven women suffered.
Four people the church members want to add as defendants – Misheal Jones, Lydia Willis, Elizabeth Mercado and Isabel Mendoza – were “wives” of Alamo at the time the abuse took place, according to the court filing.
The fifth person – Victoria Larison – lived at the church complex in Fouke in the “House of Scorn,” where girls were sent to live as a punishment for disobedience, the attorney, Jonathan William Beck, said in the filing.
Beck acknowledged in the filing that a deadline for adding defendants passed more than a year ago, but he said his clients were added as defendants after the deadline. He added that information about the five women he is seeking to add as defendants only surfaced after the deadline passed.
W. David Carter, the attorney for the seven women who say they were abused, said Friday that he will oppose the request to add the defendants.
“There are no new facts,” Carter said. “These people and their roles in the church and inside the house of Tony Alamo were known to everyone in the case.”
Alamo, 78, was convicted of taking five of the seven plaintiffs across state lines for sex while they were underage in violation of the federal Mann Act. He was sentenced in 2009 to 175 years in prison.
The lawsuit is set for trial in January 2014.
Arkansas, Pages 14 on 01/12/2013