1/16/09 – Mother [Bethany Decker-Myers] in contempt over kids, judge says

January 16, 2009

Mother in contempt over kids, judge says

TEXARKANA – Another member of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries was found in contempt of court and ordered jailed Thursday after she refused to say where three of her children are.

Meanwhile, a former ministry member said a man arrested this week on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender has ties to the church dating back to the 1980s.

Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin issued the contempt finding on the fourth day of a hearing on the custody status of 23 children who were removed from the ministry in November and December amid an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Bethany Meyers has three sons, ages 5, 9 and 15, who were taken into protective custody during a traffic stop on Arkansas 245 in Texarkana. The Arkansas Department of Human Services is looking for her daughters, ages 7, 12 and 14.

Griffin said he found Meyers in contempt of court for hiding her daughters even though she knew that the Human Services Department had a court order authorizing it to take the girls into protective custody.

“I said, ‘You don’t leave me any choice. You’ve backed me into a corner,'” Griffin told reporters Thursday evening after Meyers was escorted from the court building in handcuffs. “It’s not something I wanted to do, but when someone tells you they’re in willful violation of a court order, it doesn’t leave you any choice.”

Meyers is the second member of the ministry to be jailed for contempt during the hearing. On Tuesday, Griffin ordered Don Thorne, a truck driver who has a son who was taken into custody by the Human Services Department, held in jail after he refused to say where his other two children are.

Ministry members who have been protesting outside the court building said they consider Thorne and Meyers heroes.

“Turn your own kid in? Forget it,” said Neill Payne, 76. “I wouldn’t say a thing.”

The purpose of the hearing is to decide whether the Human Services Department was justified in removing the 23 children from the ministry and to determine whether they should remain in foster care or return to their parents, possibly with conditions attached.

The Human Services Department says the children are endangered by practices that include beatings for violations of church rules. Some children are also alleged to have been sexually abused.

On Thursday, Griffin upheld the department’s decision with regard to five of the children, who belong to four families. All five are boys who have sisters who were among the first group of children taken from the ministry.

Members of the ministry protesting outside the Juvenile Court Center have said they know little about Jonathon Patrick Curry, 49, who was arrested Tuesday on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

Curry was released from a Nevada prison on Nov. 20, 2007, after serving nearly seven years for attempted lewdness with a child under 14. According to an arrest affidavit, he had been living in a ministry-owned warehouse in Fort Smith, with a sign on his door that said, “Keep Out Jon Curry’s Rm.”

Cindi Jo Angulo, 32, a former member who was born and raised in the ministry, said Thursday that Curry joined the ministry in the 1980s. She said she was “married” to him in the church about 16 years ago, when she was 15 and he was 33. The two lived in Tampa, Fla., the Fort Smith area and Saugus, Calif., before Curry was kicked out of the ministry in 1996. Angulo left the ministry shortly afterward.

Angulo, who had three children with Curry, said she was relieved to learn of his arrest.

“He should be locked up forever,” Angulo said. “He deserves anything and everything that’s going to happen to him.”

Alamo’s attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr. of Little Rock, confirmed that Curry had been kicked out and then allowed back into the ministry.

In: 2000-2007

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