10/03/09 – TG: TV show to air segment on Alamo follower John Kolbek next month

Texarkana Gazette
October 3, 2009
By: Kristi Jordan

‘America’s Most Wanted’ comes to region


Cable show to air segment on Alamo follower John Kolbeck next month

A cable network television crew met with little opposition but no cooperation Friday from members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as it filmed a segment for an upcoming episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”

The show, in its 23rd season, will feature the profile of fugitive John Kolbek, an Alamo follower. Crews visited the ministry’s Fouke, Ark., compound to film footage for show, which airs in November.

Producers said public interest and law enforcement requests brought the case to their attention, but Kolbek’s alleged crimes warranted his placement on the program.

“We found out about the John Kolbek case in two different ways. We had people write in and ask us to do this story. We were also asked by police in Fort Smith(, Ark.,) to get involved and when we researched the case, we just saw that it seemed like he’s a very violent man from his crimes,” said Diana Nolan, “America’s Most Wanted” associate producer.

“John Kolbek is charged with battery, and court testimony by the victims seemed very graphic and violent. We thought that it was our duty to do what we could, to put him on the show and see if we could catch him.”

Nolan said the visit is an important part of getting the best information to viewers to generate solid leads, which she hopes will bring Kolbek to justice.

“The best way to get an idea and really get into a story is to travel to the location where it took place. So our crew is in Texarkana talking to different people, finding out as much as they can, seeing what the area is like so we can get a good handle on the case and get an accurate representation of the crimes,” she said on Friday.

“We talk to the officers, we talk to the victims. We talk to journalists who have covered the case from the beginning, to really dig in and get to the bottom of this and see what we can get out to the public and get the best tips back that will lead police to John Kolbek,” she said.

Crews’ attempts to enter the compound were met with rejection. They were unable to get inside any of the buildings on the compound and were forced to shoot footage in the public areas surrounding the Alamo property.

Few supporters entered or exited during the crew’s time in the area and none would speak on camera. The film crew did not go onto private property but remained on the public streets to shoot footage.

The crew interviewed Texarkana Gazette reporter Lynn LaRowe, who has covered the Alamo saga since a September 2008 raid at the Fouke compound.

LaRowe offered background information about the Alamo trial and Kolbek’s role in the organization, which allegedly led to the crimes for which he is wanted.

Kolbek has been a follower of Alamo for about 30 years. He is wanted in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Ark., for first-degree battery in connection with the beating of former Alamo member Seth Calagna.

Calagna alleges he was reported to Alamo after someone remarked he resembled Harry Potter.

Calagna’s alleged infraction was to muse that if he were the fictional character he’d cast a spell on Alamo. For this statement, Kolbek and Alamo allegedly took the then 17-year-old to a warehouse in Fort Smith, where he was pushed to the concrete floor, the fall splitting his chin.

According to the allegations, after receiving a number of blows from Kolbek with a 6-foot wooden paddle handcrafted by another follower for such activities, Alamo directed others present to pull down Calagna’s pants and thermals. The beating allegedly continued until Calagna was bruised and bloody.

Kolbek is also accused of beating Calagna’s father, who was reportedly given the choice of being beaten by Kolbek or getting kicked out of the group. After the beating he was still kicked out, according to testimony from Spencer Ondrisek during Alamo’s federal detention hearing and in custody proceedings concerning juveniles placed in state care.

Ondrisek alleges he was beaten with a board by Kolbek in Fouke and in Fort Smith. Ondrisek testified about three separate incidents during his childhood when he was punished at Alamo’s bidding by Kolbek. The most recent was when Ondrisek was 17. He was hit in the face by Alamo, who introduced Kolbek with the phrase “Here’s Johnny” in the style of Jack Nicholson’s portrayal in “The Shining.”

Kolbek has not been seen since about a week after the September 2008 raid when he tried to visit his daughter, Jane Doe No. 2 in Alamo’s criminal indictment, at a foster placement in Oklahoma. The girl, now 18, was married to Alamo at age 8 and hadn’t seen her father in two years. She testified she believed her father would do her harm if Alamo ordered it.

When Fort Smith authorities were unsuccessful in locating Kolbek, federal officials issued a warrant for unlawful flight from prosecution. The state warrant for Kolbek was issued a year ago.

Nolan said Kolbek’s alleged crimes are violent but drew special attention because of the victims’ ages.

“John Walsh (the show’s host) has a special place in his heart for children, especially children who have been victims, so anytime we see (a case involving) a child who has been taken advantage of (or) assaulted we put that at the top of our list of priorities,” she said.

Calagna and Ondrisek, with the help of Texarkana attorney David Carter, have filed a civil federal lawsuit seeking damagesin the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas. They allege battery, false imprisonment, outrage and conspiracy.

Because of Kolbek’s fugitive status, Carter sought and received permission to serve Kolbek with notice of the suit with a legal advertisement in the Texarkana Gazette. Kolbek remained silent and the court has scheduled a hearing to address the amount of damages to which the plaintiffs are entitled.

Alamo’s case was severed from Kolbek’s and is moving forward.

U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes wrote in an order that Kolbek’s silence amounts to an admission that the allegations in the suit are true.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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