7/22/09 – Witness testimonies in Alamo case (Jennifer Kolbek, Sharon Alamo, Sanford White)(Tuesday)

Texarkana Gazette
July 22, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Alamo may not testify


During the sex crimes trial of self-proclaimed evangelist Tony Alamo, jurors listened to him tell a woman to “shut up, shut your face” in a jail house recording Tuesday morning.

“Why the hell would I have to take them across state lines to have sex with them,” Alamo said on the tape. “And if I did it in Arkansas would that be bad?”

Laughter from the woman Alamo was speaking to followed the statement.

Alamo also told the woman he was still in charge even though he’s in jail.

One of Alamo’s defense attorneys said Alamo is also in charge of whether he’ll testify. Tuesday morning Alamo told reporters he would take the stand, but Tuesday afternoon he said it wasn’t necessary.

“I’ve already won the case,” Alamo said.

Defense attorney Phillip Kuhn said he advised the 74-year-old testifying would likely hurt his case but that the decision is ultimately Alamo’s.

“He’s going to think about it tonight,” Kuhn said.

Alamo could receive up to 175 years if convicted. Three of the counts are punishable by up to 30 years, four by up to ten and three others by up to 15 years. Each carries the possibility of a $250,000 fine.

The government rested its case Tuesday morning and six witnesses were called by the defense.

The wife of a fugitive and mother of a girl who was 8 when Alamo married her, surprised prosecutors when she appeared to testify.

Jennifer Kolbek has been in hiding with her four minor children and four other children for 10 months.

“I’ve been hiding from harassment,” Jennifer Kolbek said.

The mother of three of the missing kids left the courtroom in tears a few minutes into Jennifer Kolbek’s testimony and said, “That was really hard.”

A Miller County sheriff’s deputy and officials from the Arkansas Department of Human Services served Jennifer Kolbek with a copy of a removal order listing her as “mother, physical custodian or guardian” of the eight juveniles, ages 17 to 2.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Taylor quizzed her about where she’s been, Jennifer Kolbek was evasive.

Joe Quick, a Florida attorney who is representing Alamo-following parents in custody cases, along with Alamo’s defense team, prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes left the courtroom for a few minutes with Jennifer Kolbek.

When they returned, Barnes advised the jury to disregard what she’d said because she was choosing to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to testify and incriminate herself.

But before Barnes struck her testimony from the record, Jennifer Kolbek spoke rapidly of being “healed” by God as a child after doing what Alamo had instructed. She also denied she wasn’t allowed to come and go as she pleased and described her daughter as a liar. She also said she believes Alamo is a prophet.

Her husband, John Kolbek, is accused of being an enforcer who beat children and adults in the ministry at Alamo’s bidding. He is wanted by authorities in Fort Smith, Ark., for battery and by federal officials for unlawful flight from prosecution.

Texarkana lawyer David Carter filed motions in a civil suit Tuesday naming Alamo and John Kolbek as defendants on behalf of two ex-members, both 18-year-old men, who are seeking damages for false imprisonment, battery, outrage and conspiracy.

Carter is asking for a default judgment against Kolbek and to sever his case from Alamo’s.

Assets belonging to John Kolbek can be liquidated and used to pay Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, Carter said.

But figuring out who owns what of properties associated with the ministry in Fouke and Fort Smith, and in California and New Jersey might prove challenging.

Several witnesses testified that properties bearing their names really belong to the Alamo-controlled church.

“Because Pastor Alamo has been persecuted for the good he’s been doing,” said Sanford White, whose name and wife’s name appear on the deed for the “green house, also known as the “house of scorn” in Fouke.

White testified that money earned truck driving for Advantage Food Distributors goes to the church and that the business’ bills are paid by a church-managed account.

White, who was once Alamo’s personal driver and has been a follower for 39 years, admitted his name has recently been removed from deeds on church properties.

Sharon Alamo testified her name is on church-owned land as well.

She also said she didn’t notice that the girls moving into Alamo’s home were getting “younger and younger.”

Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes, Sharon Alamo, 50, admitted she was the first woman to “marry” Tony Alamo after his wife Susan died, but denied the couple is legally married.

Lydia Willis married Alamo next and is currently in hiding with the couple’s son, Sharon Alamo said.

The next woman to move in was 17, Sharon Alamo confirmed. After her, Tony Alamo brought the mother of his daughter into the house when she was 16. She is currently in hiding with the child.

After that, Alamo moved in girls ages 15, 14, 12, 11, 8, 14 and 11, Sharon Alamo testified.

In court, Tony Alamo would occasionally sniff a black Sharpie permanent marker as he listened to Sharon Alamo testify. He gave here a “thumbs up” when she was done.

Also, a woman who said she left the ministry in 2007, said she joined when she was homeless and only stayed a few months. She’d been living in her truck and was allowed to spend a night parked on church property.

After that, she wound up in a trailer and then in a house known as the “mini mansion on Locust Street in Texarkana,” Stella Wright said.

Furniture and other belongings she’d had in storage were sold at a church business called Junking for Joy for the ministry’s benefit, Wright said.

Wright said she was never allowed to meet Alamo though she was instructed to listen to his taped messages constantly. Her movements were restricted and she was concerned about the girls going into “Tony’s house.”

“I got sick of it. It was all Gestapo,” Wright said.

Wright said her food stamps were taken and she was escorted to the Social Security office to change her delivery address to a church post office box.

But when she was told Tony Alamo wanted to take her truck and cell phone, her only connection to her daughter, Wright said she balked.

“This place isn’t a ministry. It’s like a prison,” Wright said. “This is a cult.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

| Back to Top |
Want to help?

Click the button!

Post A Comment

Please note: All comments are moderated. There is no need to resubmit your comment. Please submit a well thought out post with proper punctuation and spelling, so that it can be reviewed and posted promptly (as space allows).

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.