1/21/09 – Third Alamo follower/parent [Debra Ondrisek] jailed for contempt

Texarkana Gazette
January 21, 2009
By: Lynn LaRowe

Follower of Alamo ministries jailed for contempt

Staff photo by Lynn LaRowe Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin found a third member of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in contempt of court Tuesday during a hearing at the Miller County Juvenile Court Center.

For the third time since custody hearings began last week, a follower of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries has been jailed for contempt.

The woman arrested Tuesday reportedly made public a copy of a video showing her daughter being questioned at the Child Advocacy Center. The video was sent out last month. Last week the mother complied with an order from Circuit Judge Jim Hudson to take steps to get back copies of the tape she gave to an Internet talk-show host and then-President George W. Bush, Hudson said. The mother’s name is being withheld to protect the identity of her daughter.

Miller County Circuit Judge Joe Griffin said all of the jailed parents will remain in custody until they purge their contempt or “… until the court is satisfied.”

Griffin said photographs of children, for whom custody proceedings began last week, were recently placed on the Internet.

“She refused to testify,” said Griffin as he left the Juvenile Court Center late Tuesday, referring to the mother he had arrested earlier in the day. “She refused to tell who she gave the pictures to. It violates the gag order, for one thing,” Griffin said.

When the custody hearings for 23 children began Jan. 12, Griffin issued an order prohibiting the parents or attorneys in the case from speaking about it outside of the courtroom. They were also to avoid disseminating any videos or other material concerning the children.

A gag order was implemented after confidential interviews with six girls filmed at the Child Advocacy Center in Texarkana were placed on the Web.

If they continue with their refusals, the followers could be held in jail indefinitely, Griffin said.

At the end of the day Tuesday, Griffin ruled that all of the children will stay in foster care.

“We did make a finding of dependency neglect on all nine families,” Griffin said.

The ruling brings the number of children placed in state care after final custody hearings in Miller County to 30. None of the children removed have been returned to their Alamo-following parents.

In hearings for six girls who were the first to be removed from Alamo’s compound in Fouke in September, Griffin and Hudson ruled that family reunification would be possible if the parents severed economic, residential and employment ties with the church.

Care plans, which are likely to contain many of the same directives as those for the children Griffin has already adjudicated, will be approved in court today.

Griffin said the court heard testimony concerning the parents’ failures to meet the educational and medical needs of the children.

“This had more to do with the underage marriages …” Griffin said. “It had more to do with the general practice of the Alamo community and their history of condoning it and allowing it.”

Griffin said testimony indicated the practice of allowing young girls to marry adult men in the church had been stopped for at least a year.

“There were allegations that involved children that got married under 15 years of age, allegedly some at 12,” Griffin said. “They still believe, the consistent testimony is, that marriage is proper when a young lady reaches the age of puberty. The number 12 is used consistently.”

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