Mother lashes out at cult leader, Tony Alamo

Untitled Article
August 16, 1989

Byline: AP Two years ago, Mary Lou Weinzetl fled the Holy Alamo Christian Church in Alma without her 17- day-old son, Brendan Broderick. Shortly after she left, a judge awarded her custody of the child, but even with the help of the FBI, she was unable to track down her son. The search ended Tuesday. At a New York City press conference, a teary Mary Lou Weinzetl sharply criticized the church she once attended and its controversial leader, Tony Alamo. She called Alamo’s church a cult, claimed that it abused children, and said Alamo forced her to give up her son before she could leave. ” I thought I’d never see him again,” Weinzetl, 25, told the news conference as Brendan Broderick, 2, ate M&Ms from a paper cup. The mother and son were reunited after a resident noticed the child in a disabled car on a New York street with two men Aug. 3. The resident called the police, who questioned and arrested the men. Both suspects, Jim Wahl, 20, of Alma, and Ray Arauz, 39, of California, are members of the Holy Alamo Christian Church. Several hours later the boy’s father, Brian Michael Broderick, 27, of Alma, was arrested when he came to the police station to claim his son. Broderick allegedly told the police Weinzetl had abandoned him and the boy shortly after Brendan’s birth. He refused to provide any identification papers. Wahl and Arauz have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. Broderick, who is being extradited to Van Buren (Crawford County), faces charges of interfering with custody, a felony. At the news conference, Weinzetl, who now lives in Illinois, said she left the Alma-based church because leader Alamo ordered severe spankings of children. She said she once watched three cult members use a paddle known as “the board of education” to strike a cult member’s son 60 times for talking about racism. Alamo, she said, claimed the child “had the devil in him and it had to be beaten out.” Alamo retaliated Tuesday, saying Weinzetl “has the devil possessing her.” ” People at our church use their hands, or straps, or sticks to spank their children,” Alamo said. ” We don’t just use a board.” Weinzetl said that before she could leave the group, Alamo, who chose and married the couple in an unordained ceremony, forced her to sign over custody of her son to Broderick. She also had to sign over custody of a daughter from a previous marriage, she said. The daughter was returned to her shortly after she left the church and won the custody of both children. However, Broderick kept their son and eventually went into hiding with him. ” What burst my bubble was I found out that my marriage wasn’t legal,” Weinzetl said. She said Alamo refused to let her remarry in a civil ceremony, telling her, ” We were married in the eyes of God.” ” We don’t arrange marriages,” Alamo said. ” Of all the wildest lies told about us, that’s got to be in the top 20.” Alamo, reached Tuesday by phone in California, said he had never seen Weinzetl until she appeared at the church with state police officers to search for her children. ” I never married them,” Alamo said. ” Brian told me he wanted to marry her, but I was totally against the marriage. She had only been saved three or four months.” Alamo’s fundamentalist church, which has branches in California, Nebraska and Illinois, has roughly 500 members in Arkansas. He said that his church does condone spanking children, as prescribed in the Bible. ” If God says you spank the children, you better spank the children, regardless of what our so- called laws say,” Alamo said. The FBI says Alamo is breaking those laws. According to New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Alamo is wanted for interstate flight to avoid prosecution for child abuse in California. The vehemently anti-Catholic Alamo said he is preaching in California and has not been contacted by authorities, who he described as “tools of the Vatican.” Associated Press and United Press International contributed to this article.

This story was published Wednesday, August 16, 1989

In: 1980-1989

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