10/23/09 – TG: A Mother searches for her children hidden by Alamo members ***COMMENTS***

Texarkana Gazette
October 23, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

A Mother’s Search

The last time a former Alamo Ministries member saw her three young children, they were with fugitive John Kolbek and his wife, Jennifer.

Antavia Meggs said she signed papers making John and Jennifer Kolbek the legal guardians of her son and two daughters in June 2007. She said she feared a child welfare agency would take them if she didn’t.

“I thought it would be best for the children at that time, better to be in the church than with DHS,” Meggs said as her 18-month-old son toddled, cooed, complained and explored the space around his 21-year-old mother. “Because of all the things I’d heard about DHS from Tony (Alamo), I was terrified.”

Meggs’ youngest child’s older siblings—a boy, age 5, and girls ages 4 and 3—are among 90-plus children who vanished after authorities began seizing juveniles from Alamo followers amid allegations of abuse and neglect in September 2008.

Meggs said she was living with two other adults in a small Texarkana motel room in June 2008 when a caseworker from the Arkansas Department of Human Services told her she needed to find a different place to live if she wanted to keep her babies.

“Tony would say foster care people molest and beat children,” Meggs said. “He’d tell us DHS would torture them and use mind control and all kinds of freaky stuff.”

Her first choice was to rejoin the group and move back to an Alamo Ministry owned property with her kids, but that request was denied by Alamo, Meggs said.

“I was crying when I called Jennifer,” Meggs said of the day DHS made contact with her. “The next day she calls me back and says she’ll take my children for me until I can get back on my feet. I had no driver’s license, no birth certificate. I couldn’t get a job.”

Meggs said Jennifer Kolbek told her she had to “… sign these papers so nobody can say I’ve kidnapped them.”

The next day Meggs said Jennifer Kolbek drove her and her children to the law office of Roy Gean III in Fort Smith, Ark.

Interestingly, the Gean law firm is mentioned in a recent Alamo “tract” being left beneath car wiper blades by members. The reference to the firm of Gean, Gean and Gean concerns an allegedly sworn affidavit from a man who claims law enforcement coerced him to lie about Alamo.

Calls to Gean were not returned Wednesday or Thursday.

“My mind wasn’t right then at all,” Meggs said of the day she spent in a conference room at the Gean firm. “It was way too quick. This happened one day and the next I signed over my kids. I was in a panic and in shock.”

Meggs said she was neither advised of her rights nor explained the meaning of the documents by anyone but Jennifer Kolbek.

“I didn’t read it. Jennifer read it to me,” Meggs said. “I did sign the bottom but I don’t remember anything she said to me … I was not in a state of mind to be signing legal documents.”

The papers Meggs signed indicate a notary was present, though Meggs denies anyone was in the room with her besides Jennifer Kolbek.

An order signed on June 27, 2007, by a circuit judge in Sebastian County, Ark., said the Kolbeks have “…cared for the minor children throughout their lives …,” but Meggs said she tended to her kids except when Alamo told her she couldn’t.

Meggs said she was 16 when Alamo allowed her to wed 21-year-old Jesse Meggs, the father of her four children.

“Most girls were 12 or 13 so I felt like I was old and needed to be married,” Meggs said.

Her eldest son was born without prenatal care less than a year after she married, Meggs said. Medical problems Alamo professed were the result of Meggs’ inadequate mothering led him to order the boy placed with Jennifer Kolbek when he was seven months old.

“Tony would tell me to stay away from (my son) and not to talk to him,” Meggs said. “I would see him everyday in the nursery where I worked and I couldn’t say hello to him or give him a kiss.”

Meggs and her husband left the ministry in January 2007 with their three children and separated temporarily a few months later. The guardianship papers were inked during that separation.

Meggs said, with Alamo’s permission, she was allowed to visit her children the following month in the Kolbek’s home.

“At first I got to see them weekly, sometimes twice weekly for four or five hours,” Meggs said. “Then it got to be less and less. Things really began to change about a year later. I was only getting to see them once or twice a month for maybe two hours.”

Meggs said the visits dwindled and then stopped altogether.

“Her excuses were, ‘I’m busy doing the work of the Lord,’” Meggs said. “Sometimes, Jennifer would say, ‘Why don’t you just forget about your kids and move on because they’re fine here.’”

Meggs said the woman who’d once been her “older Christian,” now avoided her.

“I finally got a hold of her the day after the raid,” Meggs said, referring to search warrants for Alamo’s Fouke compound that were executed by the FBI and Arkansas State Police on Sept. 20, 2008. “I got to talk to the kids for about a minute. That was the last time.”

Meggs said she realized the Kolbeks and her children were gone after Alamo’s arrest for child sexual abuse.

“At first, I would cry every single day,” Meggs said. “It’s not like I’ve gotten used to it but I’ve buried it so deep now … When you see little kids and their parents around the holidays, that’s when it gets really hard.”

Megg’s mother married Al Reid when she was a toddler and Meggs has four half-siblings. Two of her sisters were among six girls taken by DHS when the FBI and ASP raided.

“She really likes her life now and seems really happy,” Meggs said of her 18-year-old sister who was 17 when she was removed from Alamo’s house. “I would say she’s very thankful.”

Meggs was a baby when her mother joined “the cult” and doesn’t want her own children raised the way she was, she said.

She said that when her schooling ended at Alamo ministries at age 15, she was considered a sixth-grader academically.

Deemed to have a behavior problem, she was often “expelled,” harshly disciplined physically, and “excluded” from group interactions, Meggs said.

Work took priority over education.

“We would go to the warehouse and would have to take the dates off cans or boxes so nobody would know we were selling expired stuff,” Meggs said.

Meggs said at Christmas the children would wrap “hundreds and hundreds of presents for other kids.”

But gifts for ministry children were identical based on age and gender and often didn’t work.

“Someone might sing happy birthday to you. It was up to your parents, if they wanted to put a whole bunch of stuff on the list for you and risk being yelled at by Tony, they could,” Meggs said. “My mom wouldn’t because Tony didn’t like it. We got donated cakes, sometimes there was mold at the bottom.”

Meggs now works as a waitress at a Texarkana restaurant.

She said she hopes someday she’ll have the chance to tell her missing children: “I love you very much and I’m so sorry for all of this. I’ll fix it, or try to, at least.”

Meggs said the last time she saw her children her daughter begged to go with her.

“I told her, ‘You’ll be home soon, I promise you’,” Meggs said. “I’m not giving up. I promised her.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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  1. Dyann Says:

    Reading it in this format just brings tears streaming down my face. I pray for her every morning and won’t stop until all her children are in her arms…God love and bless you, Antavia. You surely didn’t do anything to deserve this.

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