Three members of a controversial religious cult which moved into Winnipeg this week are wanted across North America on child abduction charges, The Sun has learned.
And police suspect at least one of the fugitives may be headed for Winnipeg -- if he's not here already.
"I wouldn't be suprised if that's why they cleared out of Nova Scotia," New Minas, N.S. RCMP Const. Wendell Muchison said yesterday.
"They left when the pressure got on them about where the kid was."
Edward Isaac Dawson, 38, is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for the 1992 abduction of his son Michael, now 10.
Dawson, a member of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church [aka "The Community" and "Twelve Tribes"], was last seen with his son in Barrington Passage, N.S. last year before disappearing--he likely hid out at one of the cult's Halifax safe houses, police said.
Michael's mother, Judy Seymour, said cult members told her if she tried to fight for custody legally, "I'd never see my son again. They were right."
"The last time I saw my son he was waving at me, through a window."
Two other members, Stephen "Tzuriel" Wootten and Ruth Delozier are also wanted in the U.S. for abducting their children from their estranged spouses, who are not involved in the cult.
Kids spotted last year
Again, the members and the kids were last seen in Barrington Passage last year, officials said.
"We're looking for a whole mess of kids," said Susan Davis, a Vermont State Attorney who's spent the past three years trying to catch up with the cult members.
"And.. there's no way you're going to find them. (The cult) is covering at least 12 states and at least six or seven countries."
Meanwhile, cult member David Saylor, who arrived here this week to establish "the community of believers in Winnipeg" brushed off allegations the group is harboring the charged members.
"All of this is old news," Saylor said.
"It's still being played on for the sensationalism of it."
Still, Winnipeg Police Insp. Con Gislason said yesterday he'll consult experts within the department about the church.
And two officers have already visited Saylor's home, just to "introduce" themselves.
Allegations follow church
Allegations of systematic child abuse have long dogged the church, known for its belief in Old Testament philosophies and for condoning corporal punishment, male dominance and submissiveness among female members.
But no allegation has ever been proven, and when assault charges have been laid, they've been thrown out in court.
In 1984, officials seized 112 kids from a Vermont church community, but a judge ordered the children returned to their families, ruling the seizure was illegal.
Soon after, one of the church's leaders was charged after a girl's father alleged she was beaten for hours with a stick.
But the charges were dropped after the father recanted his statement.
House under close watch
The city health department is keeping an eye on North End house to make sure there won't be overcrowding after a religious cult moves in.
A member of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church told The Sun as many as 25 members of the church may move into the two-storey home on St. John's Avenue.
City health inspector Ken Collins received one complaint about the property.
"We had one call last week from an area resident who heard there was going to be 30 families living in the house," Collins said yesterday.
"All we've got now is rumors and allegations. We're watching it."
The house, which listed for $79,900, is zoned as a two-family dwelling.
The Public Health Act specifies there must be 7.2 square metres of floor space per person, he said.
"The standard we go by is a two-bedroom apartment --that will hold about six people maximum. It still comes down to available floor space."
The group, about three adults and six children so far, pans to hold open house meetings.
Ron Williams, of the city's zoning department, said if the home were used a s church, its residential zoning would have to be changed to conditional use after public hearings.