12/26/08 – The raid of Tony Alamo’s Fouke compound and subsequent arrest ranks in the top 10 of Times Record’s local stories of 2008!

Times Record
December 26, 2008
By Amy Sherrill

Alamo Arrest At No. 6

Editor’s Note: Each year, the Times Record newsroom staff votes on the Top 10 local stories of the year. The raid of evangelist Tony Alamo’s Fouke compound and subsequent arrest ranks as the No. 6 story of 2008.

Evangelist Tony Alamo was arrested in September in Arizona, five days after federal and state authorities raided the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Fouke.

Six girls were taken into state custody during the raid on Sept. 20. About 20 additional children have been taken into state custody since then.

Alamo, 74, who is listed in court documents by his real name, Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is charged with taking a 13-year-old girl across state lines for sex in 2004 and with aiding and abetting her transport across state lines for sex in 2005. He has pleaded not guilty to the two charges. A federal magistrate has ordered Alamo held until his trial because he is viewed as a threat to public safety.

This month, an indictment was unsealed, and it accuses Alamo of sexually abusing five girls on separate occasions, beginning in 1994, including a period when he was serving a tax-evasion sentence at a halfway house in Texarkana.

Alamo was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1994. He completed a prison sentence and was released in December 1998. After his release from a halfway house in Texarkana, Ark., he was schedule to be arrested in Crawford County if he did not release the body of Susan Alamo (his second wife) to her family, which he ultimately did. He settled near Texarkana, in Fouke, Ark., in Miller County after his release.

In February 1991, Alamo ordered his followers to bring along Susan Alamo’s body when they evacuated the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation compound in Crawford County. The compound was about to be raided by federal marshals in the wake of a civil lawsuit against Alamo.

Alamo still has ties to the Fort Smith area — eight residences, two warehouses, two businesses, an apartment complex and a church in Fort Smith are listed as owned by the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, according to documents released by authorities.

Local police officers and sheriff’s deputies assisted state officials on Nov. 18 in executing a court order to search for endangered children at the 14 Fort Smith properties.

No children were removed at the various locations searched by Arkansas State Police, who were assisting workers with the state Department of Human Services, according to state police spokesman Bill Sadler.

Authorities searched the local properties — including the Tony Alamo Christian Church on Windsor Drive — for specific children whose identities were in the court order

“The role of the state police as pursuant to the court order was to ensure that DHS was able to enter the property safely and to ensure that children were removed without the threat of any harm to them or the DHS workers,” Sadler said.

The court order sought to remove children who were believed to be abused or neglected

Similar searches were conducted in Miller County, where 20 children were taken into state custody.

In Fort Smith, Alamo is also known for tracts his followers put underneath car windshield wipers.

A warrant was issued in October for John Erwin Kolbeck, 49, of Fort Smith, who is alleged to have disciplined church members at Alamo’s request. He is wanted on a second-degree battery warrant in connection with an attack on a 17-year-old boy with a 2×6 board in a Fort Smith warehouse in early 2008, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant.

The boy was knocked onto the concrete floor and beaten repeatedly with the board, which caused significant bruising and bleeding, the affidavit states.

When Kolbeck realized the boy’s winter clothing was protecting him from the blows, he had the boy’s pants and thermal underwear pulled down and continued to beat him until the board broke.

Police also interviewed Kolbeck in March 3, 2006, in reference to a wedding ceremony performed for a 13-year-old girl and a 34-year-old man.

Police were dispatched to the church on Windsor Drive that day by a caller who told authorities about the wedding.

The man was a member of the church, but the girl was not, Kolbeck told police that day.

He added that the bride, groom and families had already left the area and he did not know how to get in contact with any of them, according to a report.

The prosecutor’s office advised police to treat the incident as a rape investigation, the report states.

John Wesley Hall Jr., a Little Rock lawyer, is representing Alamo.

In: 2000-2007

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