11/19/08 – Three brothers were taken into state custody after being sworn in as witnesses on behalf of their parents

Texarkana Gazette
November 19, 2008
By: Lynn LaRowe

Testimony continues in custody hearings

Three brothers were taken into state custody Tuesday after being sworn in as witnesses on behalf of their parents, followers of Tony Alamo, in a custody hearing concerning one of their sisters.

Their sister and five other girls were removed from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke, Ark., on Sept. 20 amid allegations of sexual abuse.

Tuesday, in hearings concerning two pairs of sisters before Circuit Judge Joe Griffin, an older brother of the boys testified about physical abuse he allegedly suffered at the direction of Tony Alamo. The 18-year-old also testified Monday in hearings before Circuit Judge Jim Hudson regarding two of the six girls, one of whom was his sister.

Also to testify was a 14-year-old girl whose two sisters were removed in September. The 14-year-old was 13 when she asked Alamo for a bus ticket to her aunt’s home out of state.

“My father came to me before I left and told me I was making a mistake and that I would go to hell if I left,” the girl testified Monday.

With the bus ticket and $40 in her pocket, the girl left.

“I left because I didn’t believe in some of the stuff he preached such as polygamy,” the girl said Monday.

She told the court new members of the church were unaware of Alamo’s polygamist views and of the multiple, wedding-ring wearing “sisters in the house,” that were Alamo’s alleged wives.

The alleged selling of donated goods collected for the charity “Arms Full of Help” for a profit also made the girl uneasy, she testified.

On Monday, Hudson ruled one reporter from the Texarkana Gazette could observe the hearings as long as the anonymity of the children and their parents was protected.

Before opening statements began Tuesday, an attorney representing the parents of six girls who still follow Alamo, made a motion to have the press removed. Attorney Marshall Moore, cited a passage from the state’s juvenile code that intimated the custody hearings should be closed.

With that, Griffin ruled in Moore’s favor.

But Moore didn’t get everything he asked for Tuesday.

Griffin denied a motion from Moore for more time to prepare for the custody hearings. The law only allows the court 60 days in which to conduct the final custody hearings, Griffin stated as cause for his denial.

Lawyers for the Arkansas Department of Human Services asked both Hudson and Griffin to rule that Moore should be disqualified because he once represented a mother whose child was living on Tony Alamo property with his father. Both judges ruled that Moore did not have to leave the case.

Once the pretrial motions were dealt with, the testimony of the two witnesses began.

Both witnesses described beatings by John Kolbeck they while living on Tony Alamo property. The parents of the witnesses did nothing to stop the beatings, referred to as “corrections,” and did not seek medical treatment for them when they came home bleeding and bruised, they testified.

Violating one of Alamo’s rules could lead to a forced fast that might last days.

Both witnesses described being forced to work on the compound without receiving a paycheck.

The girl worked in Alamo’s office, sometimes until the early morning hours. The boy performed “watch duty” and other physical labor.

Hudson’s hearings, which began Monday, will continue Thursday.

Griffin’s hearings will continue today and could go into next week if necessary.

The judges must decide if the girls will remain in foster care, be returned to the parents, some of whom continue to follow Alamo’s teachings, or be placed with other relatives without connections to the controversial church.

Lawyers for the girls and DHS argued that the parents had “abdicated their parental duties” to Tony Alamo. They allowed Alamo to dictate how their children are disciplined, when their children will eat, who their children will marry and where they will live amounts to neglect, lawyers argued.

Moore argued Monday that Alamo’s alleged misdeeds shouldn’t be held against the parents.

Alamo’s defense attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr., of Little Rock, said the allegations made in the custody hearings can’t be used against his client in his criminal trial in February.

“He’s not allowed to participate in these hearings,” Hall said. “Isn’t there a fundamental right to confront your accusers?”

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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