12/4/08 – Local man looks forward to seeing children he says he hasn’t had contact with in years

Texarkana Gazette
December 4, 2008
By: Lynn LaRowe

Six more children in custody
Local man, who is no longer an Alamo follower, looks forward to seeing children he says he hasn’t had contact with in years

Six more children of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries followers, who were listed on an order for removal signed last month by a Miller County circuit judge, were found Tuesday night in Indiana.

The children are now in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

“Thank you, Mr. Randall Harris and the FBI, for all that you’ve done. And thank you, DHS, for taking notice of what was going on in there and doing something to protect the children. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Texarkana resident Anthony Lane of the efforts of FBI Agent Randall Harris and DHS staff. Three of Lane’s children were among the six found Tuesday night.

All six of the children taken in Indiana have the same mother, Lane said.

Lane said he hasn’t seen his 13- and 11-year-old daughters in 10 years. He said he has never met his 9-year-old son.

“I’m excited to see them. I’m looking forward to seeing them. I’m looking forward to court,” he said.

Under Arkansas’ juvenile code, probable cause hearings to address temporary custody of the children must be held within five business days. The issue of visitation with parents will be addressed as well if the children are ordered to remain in state care temporarily.

DHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said the six siblings will be placed in the same foster home. Munsell said DHS staff were working Wednesday to complete health and social assessments.

Lane said forging new relationships with the children, who likely have no memory of him, is a challenge for which he is ready.

“I want to hold them and hug them, but I’m afraid they’ll be withdrawn. I hope they’ll be open to me,” Lane said. “They’ll be learning things every day. They’ll be finding that things they were taught are not true, and they’ll be told that I’ve been looking for them every day since they were taken from me.”

Munsell said details about how and where the children were found are not being disclosed.

“As far as I know, there were no arrests,” Munsell said of the Indiana seizure.

More than 125 children were listed on the Miller County removal order. With the six found Tuesday, the number in state custody has risen to 32.

The California Department of Social Services and FBI agents visited an Alamo Ministries compound Wednesday in Santa Clarita, just outside Los Angeles. No children were found on the California compound, according to The Associated Press.

Child welfare agencies in states such as California and Oklahoma have been contacted, Munsell said. Cooperation from other states’ welfare agencies and courts is necessary because the removal order signed by Circuit Judge Joe Griffin is only enforceable in Arkansas.

The whereabouts of about 100 other children remain unknown.

“My girls were babies when I was kicked out of the cult and they were taken from me,” Lane said. “I know it’s going to be hard. I’m hoping the Lord’s going to bless me with the finances that will allow me to take them out and do the things they haven’t gotten to do while on the compound.”

Lane operates a roofing business in Texarkana.

“They really don’t get to do a lot on the compound,” Lane said. “They want to conceal what they do and their teachings. That’s what causes them to conceal children.”

Lane said he will rest easier knowing his children are safe.

“I’m so glad children are finally being put into protective custody,” he said. “I believe the reason they’ve kept me from my children all these years is to conceal the crimes they’ve committed against them.”

Currently only Alamo, whose real name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, and his alleged enforcer, John Kolbeck, are facing criminal charges.

The 74-year-old evangelist faces a 10-count indictment in the Western District of Arkansas’ Texarkana Division. Alamo is accused of bringing at least five girls across state lines for sex since 1994. Court documents unsealed Tuesday allege marriages of girls as young as 9 to the church leader.

Alamo is detained in the Bowie County jail annex in downtown Texarkana behind the Bi-State Justice Building.

He is scheduled for trial in February.

Alamo and Kolbeck are also defendants in a civil lawsuit filed last week by Texarkana lawyer David Carter on behalf of two 18-year-old former followers. The men claim they were ritualistically beaten at Alamo’s direction by Kolbeck with a 6-foot-long wooden paddle carved specifically for that purpose.

Kolbeck, 49, is a wanted man. Authorities in Sebastian County, Ark., have charged him with second-degree battery. Federal officials have issued a warrant for Kolbeck for unlawful flight from prosecution.

In: 2008 - (Trial year)

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