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Abuse charges for Alamo suspect

Man accused of beating 11-year-old boy in Saugus surrenders

Posted: January 24, 2009 9:59 p.m.
Updated: January 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A man accused of the 1988 beating of an 11-year-old boy at a Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound in Saugus was arrested, authorities say.

Douglas Christopher, 55, is accused of holding the boy down at the Saugus compound, while a ministry member beat the child with a paddle, causing the boy to bleed.

Jane Robison of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Christopher turned himself in Tuesday to California authorities.

He was jailed in Los Angeles on $100,000 bond and faces two counts of felony child abuse. Each offense is punishable by up to six years in jail, she said.

Ministry leader Tony Alamo was accused of ordering the beating. He eluded authorities for two years before being arrested in Tampa, Fla., on child-abuse charges in 1991.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against him in 1995, citing the time that had lapsed and Alamo’s conviction on tax evasion charges the previous year. Alamo served four years in prison for the conviction and was released in 1998.

Currently, Alamo, 74, is in federal custody in Arkansas, awaiting trial on charges that he took five girls across state lines for sex in violation of the Mann Act.

Thirty-six children from the ministry have been taken into protective custody by the state of Arkansas and placed in foster care since an Alamo compound at Fouke in western Arkansas was raided in September.

The state Human Services Department continues to search for other ministry children.

The family of the boy, Justin Miller, later sued the ministry in federal court at Fort Smith and was awarded more than $1.4 million. Miller told authorities that Alamo directed four men to strike him 140 times with a wooden paddle as punishment for minor offenses.

In addition to Christopher and Alamo (prounounced “a-LAH-mo”), four other people were charged in the beating. Robison said prosecutors were still researching the 21-year-old case.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult that rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the U.S. tax agency said he owed the government $7.9 million.

Alamo faces trial in February on the 10 federal child-abuse charges in Arkansas.

Alamo has been an interesting and controversial figure locally ever since the 1960s when he changed his name from Bernie Lazar Hoffman, abandoned his Jewish upbringing and established his Christian compound in Saugus.

Some praise him for bringing the word of God to the downtrodden of inner-city Los Angeles and for doing good works in the community; for example, Alamo and his followers, colloquially known as “Alamos,” helped build the Canyon High School football stadium in 1968.

Christian Ministries continue to operate the Saugus compound in Mint Canyon (technically Agua Dulce).

Accompanied by Santa Clarita Valley sheriff’s deputies, officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Family and Children Services visited the Alamo compound in Saugus in December during what child services officials called a referrals-based visit, said Laura Grasmehr, spokeswoman for the department.

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