7/26/09 – Tony Alamo faces life for child-sex conviction

The Signal (Santa Clarita Valley)
July 25, 2009
By Brandon Lowrey

Alamo faces life for child-sex conviction

Tony Alamo faces life behind bars thousands of miles away on a child sex conviction, but much of the 74-year-old preacher’s legacy lingers in the Santa Clarita Valley.

His secretive, guarded west-coast headquarters remains tucked in the rugged canyons along Sierra Highway north of Saugus — a church and a scattered network of compounds.

His followers often put pamphlets on car windows around town.

And Alamo’s deeds, for better or worse, remain an indelible part of the Santa Clarita Valley’s history.

A jury in Arkansas convicted Alamo on Friday in a federal trial on 10 counts of bringing minors across state lines for sex. Several women had testified Alamo had “married” and had sex with them when they were as young as 8 years old.

A church associate was convicted earlier this month in the brutal group beating of a teenage boy at Alamo’s Santa Clarita Valley compound, a beating that Alamo himself allegedly directed.

Alamo’s New Jerusalem Ministry built the original bleachers for Canyon High School’s football stadium in 1968. The concrete bleachers now lie beneath metal benches.

His young volunteers left a strange impression on the locals.

Pat Willett, whose husband, a contractor, supervised the building, described the young volunteers as polite and obedient but from clearly troubled backgrounds.

“(Alamo) would get down on the streets and pick up young people, mostly homeless young people, and offer them food,” said Willett, who is now a spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Willett recalled visiting Tony Alamo and his wife, Susan, whom many said was initially the brains behind the operation.

She said they seemed to be living a life of relative luxury, with church members waiting on them and treating them “like gods, almost.”

Willett and her husband visited the Alamos’ church a couple of times. Rock music blared from huge speakers during the services, she said.

Afterward, new converts would be put through intensive one-on-one indoctrination sessions.

“It did good for the children they took off the streets — some, with the backgrounds they had, I don’t know how long they would have survived,” Willett said.

Christhiaon Coie, 58, was Alamo’s stepdaughter. She lived in the church for about three years before fleeing with her two daughters after her mother, stepfather and several followers severely beat her, she said.

She described her mother and stepfather, who founded the church, as con artists. She, along with other former members, have said the church was a place of violence, fear and control.

“It was just insane. Just insane,” Coie said. “Theirs was truly a match made in hell.”

Alamo and her mother, she said, tried to steal her two daughters away from her. And constant threats from church members drove her and her daughters into hiding.

She praised the successful prosecutor in Alamo’s trial, U.S. Assistant Attorney Kyra Jenner, saying she’s “better than sliced bread” and the embodiment of amazing determination and morals.

“What he’s done is irreparable and it will go on and on and on hurting people, even though he’s locked up,” Coie said. “But at least he cannot put his filthy hands on another little girl, and he can’t beat another little boy.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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