UPDATED: 11/19/09 – TG: Judge: Environment at Alamo compound potentially dangerous ***COMMENTS***

Texarkana Gazette
November 19, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Court upholds seizure of children
Judge: Environment at Alamo compound potentially dangerous

The Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed Wednesday the decisions of Miller County circuit judges concerning the custody of girls removed from Tony Alamo’s house during a law enforcement raid.

“The evidence presented at the hearing overwhelmingly demonstrated that the environment at the compound in Fouke is potentially dangerous for the children of its members,” said an opinion inked by Chief Judge Larry Vaught concerning a girl assigned to Circuit Judge Joe Griffin. “A child may be adjudicated dependent-neglected even if she has not yet suffered abuse. To require (the girl) to suffer the same fate as those whose abuse and neglect were described at the hearing would be ‘tragic and cruel.’”

Alamo, a former evangelist, was sentenced last week to 175 years in federal prison for child sex abuse.

Judges Robert Gladwin and D.P. Marshall penned opinions affirming decisions by Griffin and Circuit Judge Jim Hudson for two other families.

The rulings concerned four of six girls taken into state care Sept. 20, 2008.

Vaught’s opinion denying Greg Seago’s appeal of his daughter’s removal includes the observations of a state psychologist immediately following the raid.

“She said that on the first day she noticed that (two girls) wore wedding-band type rings on the third fingers of their left hands; the next day, the rings were gone,” the opinion said of child sexual abuse expert Dr. Karen Worley of Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “Worley stated that, while the children said that they would follow government law, they truly believed church law, including such beliefs as polygamy and the marriage of girls once they reach puberty.”

Vaught noted that Seago married a 15-year-old when he was 35, failed to intervene when his children were beaten and “failed to protect that child against the risk of sexual abuse by … placing her in the residence of Tony Alamo, whom he knew to be a polygamist. The court also found that Seago had endorsed and facilitated the attempted illegal marriages of underage females including (his daughter) to adult males.”

In Gladwin’s decision affirming Griffin’s ruling regarding two of Brian Broderick’s daughters, the testimony of one of the girls is quoted.

She describes being held down on Alamo’s bed by four of his “wives” and beaten with a board by one of them while Alamo watched with “a smile on his face.”

The opinions also referred to the testimony of several young men who have left the church.

The “iron control” Alamo exercised over his flock and their children is evidenced by examples of children being moved away from their parents at Alamo’s whim, the opinions said.

Danny Ondrisek testified that his mother received a new mini-van and his father an expensive digital camera when his then 10-year-old sister moved into Alamo’s house. Alys Ondrisek remains an Alamo devotee and testified on his behalf at his criminal trial.

Danny Ondrisek’s testimony also alleged that Alamo put the “whole church on a week-long fast when he was eight or nine years old,” the opinion said. As punishment for answering an “outsider’s” questions, Danny Ondrisek was forced to live in a dirty warehouse in New Jersey where he labored unpaid for 12 hours daily.

The testimony of a teenage former member who was “grossed out” when 50-year-old Alfonso Reid asked to marry her, is also mentioned.

“She testified that, when they were tipped off about an upcoming raid, the younger girls who were Alamo’s wives were sent out of Alamo’s residence, and that she observed some pictures of his underage wives being removed from his belongings,” Seago’s opinion said.

When authorities searched Alamo’s bedroom in September 2008, they didn’t find Polaroid pictures of nude girls that some of the Jane Does who testified against Alamo at his criminal trial described.

In the Seago, Broderick and Reid opinions, the judges write that the men complain that the inclusion of housing and employment separate from the ministry as conditions for reunification are unconstitutional.

Because such objections were not made at the trial court level, the issue can’t be appealed, the opinions said.

“Whether or not we take it to the Arkansas Supreme Court or ask for a rehearing, those decisions haven’t been made. I need to discuss this with my clients,” said Houston attorney Clay Conrad, who filed the appeals on the parents’ behalves. “Do I think the opinions they wrote are vulnerable? Yes, I do.”

Florida attorney Phillip Kuhn said he believes the lack of an opinion on the religious freedom issue supports allegations made in a civil lawsuit he filed in federal court on behalf of the ministry, Seago and Bert Krantz, a member with six children in state custody.

The civil suit accuses the Arkansas Department of Human Services of using a child abuse investigation to disband the ministry and of acting in bad faith.

“I’m pleased that the appellate court saw the evidence the way I saw it,” Griffin said. “I felt that all the information provided to the court gave it a strong basis to enter the orders it did. I think the appellate ruling gives the circuit court solid direction on how it should proceed in the future if case goals and directives are not met. Of course, these cases are such that, if circumstances or situations change, then the courts’ future orders can change also.”

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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  1. Dyann Says:

    I read the entire appeals transcripts and they made my soul grieve for all of them.

    The boys and girls who had to repeat their testimonies time after time. The pain of their parent’s rejection is palatable.

    Every single “parent” named should be locked up as co-conspirators and never be allowed the blessings of knowing their children again. I know that doesn’t sound very Christian of me, but somehow it feels justifiable.

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