9/24/08 – THV Video Update: Judge Decides To Keep Children From Compound For Now

Today’s THV
September 24, 2008
By: Melissa Dunbar-Gates

Update: Judge Decides To Keep Children From Compound For Now

(Little Rock, Ark.) KTHV — A judge in Texarkana has through Tuesday night to decide whether the state has enough evidence to take custody of six girls from the Tony Alamo compound in Fouke. You’ll recall the children were removed from the compound during a raid on the complex over the weekend.

Alamo and his followers are suspected of child abuse and pornography. The complex was raided Saturday. From that point, the state had 72 hours to either return the children to their parents, or get a judge to sign a petition to put them into foster care.

Masses of police officers, federal agents, and department of human services workers descended on the Tony Alamo complex near Texarkana.

Julie Munsell with the Department of Human Services says half a dozen girls were taken into protective custody which sets off this chain of proceedings. A judge has five days after signing a petition following an emergency when the children were taken into custody to schedule a probable cause hearing.

During that time the children would be put in foster care or placed with an extended family member. Thirty days later the next hearing must be held; adjudication, that’s the biggy where the judge decides if the children will one day be reunited with their parents; or if they’ll be sent to new homes.

Munsell says DHS workers actually interviewed nine girls in the complex and just took the six into custody. She says that means investigators think just those six girls were in imminent danger.

DHS workers are busy trying to figure out who the parents are of each child. They’ve already had phone calls from people claiming to be.

Munsell says, “We have asked them to come to the agency, their local DHS office, present that in person, drivers license, social security numbers, perhaps pictures of their children so we can tie them back through their birth records.”

Meantime they’re still interviewing the girls, whose stories can change from one interview to the next.

Munsell says, “They can be easily confused. They are scared and often the fear overshadows their fear of telling details overshadows their ability to tell it accurately.”

Munsell says the judge has until 8:00 Tuesday night to sign the petition. She says because these are minor children they’re dealing with in an abuse/neglect situation that she can not release to the media what that decision is.

Bill Sadler with Arkansas State Police says the investigation into Tony Alamo is ongoing. That the file has not been handed to the prosecutor yet.


An official says six girls taken from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke will remain in state custody for the near future.

The Arkansas Department of Human Services had faced an 8 p.m. deadline for filing a court document to keep the children or return them to the complex of houses in southwestern Arkansas. Department spokeswoman Julie Munsell said she couldn’t comment about the legal process surrounding the girls’ future, but acknowledged they wouldn’t be leaving the state’s care Tuesday night.

State lawyers will appear before a Miller County judge sometime in the next five days for a closed-door hearing about the girls’ future.

Munsell says the girls, ranging in age from 10 to 17, all have been identified through police investigation and birth certificates. However, she says state authorities continue to piece together who their legal guardians are, as their parents “weren’t present” at the time of the raid.

Munsell says there are no immediate plans to remove any other children from the Fouke compound. However, she says she “wouldn’t completely close the door” on going back in, as new evidence could be uncovered.

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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