Mother reunited with child abducted by Tony Alamo’s cult

Los Angeles Times
August 17, 1989

A mother was reunited with her 2-year-old son Tuesday in New York City after trying for two years to get him back from his father, who authorities said is a member of an unorthodox Christian sect led by fugitive Tony Alamo.

Mary Lou Weinzetl, 25, of Waukegan, Ill., appeared with her son at a Manhattan news conference and denounced Alamo’s church, which has a branch in Saugus, as well as branches in Illinois, Arkansas and Tennessee.

“He tore my family apart,” a tearful Weinzetl said of Alamo, who is being sought by the FBI on suspicion of interstate flight to avoid prosecution. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Alamo and five followers last year with felony child abuse stemming from the beating of an 11-year-old boy at the church’s Saugus compound.

“People think they are doing things for the Lord, but they are doing things for the personal gain of Tony Alamo,” Weinzetl said as she held her son, Brendan Broderick, at the news conference.

Alamo, who runs the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, said Weinzetl “fabricated this whole thing” to defame his church. In a telephone interview, the church leader said Brendan’s father, identified by authorities as Brian Michael Broderick, 27, of Alma, Ark., stopped attending the church two years ago.

Alamo described Brian Broderick as “a real nice, very naive boy.” Broderick wanted his child to “live a godly life in the church,” Alamo said.

Brendan had been separated from his mother for two years after she fled Alamo’s Holiness Tabernacle Church in Alma to live in Waukegan, Ill., said Angelo Caliendo, a Waukegan police detective.

Weinzetl obtained an Arkansas court order in October, 1987, for the return of Brendan, but his father could not be located until New York police found him and the child this month, Caliendo said.

On Aug. 3, an anonymous “good Samaritan” walking along a lower Manhattan street spotted a beat-up car with two men inside and what appeared to be a young boy hiding in the rear seat, said Gerald McKelvey, a spokesman for Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau.

The suspicious passer-by called police. The men, identified by authorities as Ray Arauz, 39, of Saugus and Jim Wahl, 20, of Alma, told police that they were waiting for the boy’s father to return, said Louis Castagliola, a New York Police Department detective.

The officers were suspicious and brought the two men and the boy to a police station where Broderick showed up several hours later looking for his son, Castagliola said.

Authorities said Broderick told them that his name was Gary Davis and that the boy, whom he called “Bubba,” was his son and had been abandoned by his mother. But after tracing the car’s Arkansas license plates, detectives learned Broderick’s identity and discovered that he was wanted in Arkansas on a charge of custodial interference.

Broderick has waived extradition to Arkansas to face that charge, McKelvey said. Arauz and Wahl, also described by authorities as members of the Alamo church, were charged in New York with misdemeanor child endangerment.

Waukegan police sent infant handprints and footprints to New York authorities in an unsuccessful attempt to identify the boy as Weinzetl’s son. But Broderick later admitted that Weinzetl was the boy’s mother.

The boy, who had not seen his mother since he was 17 days old, appeared to be in good physical condition, McKelvey said.

Alamo was contacted through his church in Saugus, which relayed a message to him. Asked if he would turn himself in, Alamo said: “They’re the FBI. I’m not supposed to look for them. They’re supposed to look for me.”

In: 1980-1989

| Back to Top |
Want to help?

Click the button!

Comments are closed.