Ex-cult member wanted on parental kidnapping charge

Boston Herald/September 7, 2001
By Dave Wedge

A former Twelve Tribes member who didn't want his child raised in the controversial cult fled the country with the boy five years ago and is still being sought by Boston police, records show.

"He was afraid that if they got into a drawn-out court battle, then the group would run with the boy," a source said of Jonathan Brown.

Brown, a former member of the quirky Christian/Hebrew hybrid cult, fled the group's Dorchester house in August 1996 with his son, Ian, now 13, and is still on the run. He's believed to be living in an island nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

There is an active warrant for Brown's arrest on parental kidnapping charges out of Dorchester District Court. According to the source, a Boston detective assigned to the case visited Brown in the island nation last year. Brown and his ex-wife, Twelve Tribes member Amynah Kamil Brown, were in the midst of a nasty custody battle over Ian when Jonathan Brown fled with the boy. Brown wanted his wife and the boy to leave the cult with him but she wanted to stay.

Amynah Brown allowed the boy to go with his father for weekends but the group was wary of him taking Ian on longer trips.

"They were giving him a hard time for taking the boy away from the group for extended periods of time. This is typical of the group," the source said. "He had a right to see the child outside of the group but he was afraid they were going to deny him his child and move with the boy out of state."

The sect has a history of hiding children during custody battles involving a parent who leaves the group. The most notorious case involved member Steven Wooten, who was wanted by the FBI for eight years before he was caught in 1998 in Florida with his two sons. The boys' mother said she was denied access to her sons and claims the group lied repeatedly about their whereabouts and hid them in various Twelve Tribes houses around the country. When Wooten and the boys were arrested, they all had fake IDs. Wooten is still facing custodial interference charges in Vermont.

The cult, which has homes and businesses in Dorchester, Plymouth, Hyannis, Vermont and New Hampshire, has been accused of child abuse, racism, homophobia and using child labor. In Boston, officials are looking into whether their Dorchester home may be an illegal rooming house.

Members of the fringe religious sect, which has 3,000 adherents, deny they abuse kids or violate child labor laws and refute allegations of racism and mind control. The cult, which runs the Common Ground Cafe in Lower Mills, is hosting a public forum Monday night in Plymouth.

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