Texas couple held in ritual sex abuse case

The Sacramento Bee/August 28, 2003
By Mareva Brown and Denny Walsh

A Texas couple who allegedly were disciples of the self-proclaimed religious prophet facing a Sacramento child molestation trial next month have been arrested on federal charges of molesting his children and their own, according to sources and documents filed in federal court.

Michael and Juliette La Brecque were arrested last week in Iowa and are being held without bail awaiting transportation to Sacramento, where a federal grand jury is this week hearing evidence in the case, sources familiar with the matter said.

The La Brecque case, which alleges frequent and ritualized sexual abuse tied to their religious worship, is intertwined with that of Allen Harrod, the patriarch of the group who allegedly wrote his own interpretation of Mormon doctrine that laid out sexual rituals for specific ages and genders.

Harrod faces 27 sexual abuse charges in Sacramento Superior Court in a trial scheduled to begin Sept. 8. He currently is undergoing psychiatric testing to see if he is competent to stand trial. His wife, Irene, faces five charges for her alleged participation in the cult rituals.

The Harrods' attorneys have said their clients are not guilty.

According to federal documents filed in Sacramento and sources familiar with the case, Michael La Brecque and Allen Harrod met when they both worked briefly at Mather Air Force Base more than a decade ago.

"Through his friendship with Allen Harrod, (Michael) La Brecque became a follower of Harrod's purported branch of Mormonism," according to a federal affidavit, which noted that most if not all of 22 children in both families have been sexually abused.

The four adults renamed themselves after biblical figures -- the La Brecques became Joseph and Mary, and the Harrods were Isaac and Rebekah, according to a source familiar with the Harrod case who said La Brecque was Harrod's "bishop" in the sect.

La Brecque taught his wife, four daughters and son according to the scriptural interpretations provided by Harrod, the sources said.

Those writings were heavily laced with ritual sexual abuse of children, including one tradition calling for a daughter's molestation when she reached age 7 and another ceremony that included rape and sodomy by Harrod and oral copulation of him when girls reached puberty, according to officials familiar with both the state and federal cases and a federal arrest affidavit filed in court.

The second ceremony forms the basis of two of the three federal charges filed against Michael La Brecque, who is alleged to have put two of his daughters on planes to Sacramento from Texas between 1999 and 2001 specifically to facilitate their sexual abuse by Harrod, court documents say. By doing so, La Brecque violated federal law, which prohibits the use of interstate commerce for child abuse.

Juliette La Brecque's single federal charge stems from her alleged molestation of one of the Harrods' sons, who was sent to live with the La Brecques in Texas at the age of 7, the document says. Her husband also faces that charge.

The Harrods have not yet been charged in federal court.

Their case began in September 2001, when an adult daughter of Allen Harrod told Folsom police that she had been abused for more than a decade and that her siblings also were victims. The Harrods were arrested at a Sacramento home the following month, and their children taken into protective custody.

Several of La Brecque's children also were living with the Harrods when the adults were arrested, including the eldest daughter, then 19, who was pregnant with Allen Harrod's child at the time, a source said. One source familiar with the case and Harrod's writings said it appears that that teen was a wife of Harrod's, who allegedly was a practicing polygamist.

When the Harrods were arrested, the La Brecques shredded journals that described sexual rituals and left Texas, according to the federal court documents. They were arrested Aug. 19 in Iowa and appeared before a federal magistrate there a day later. The magistrate ordered them immediately transported to Sacramento to face the charges.

Not all of the Harrod and La Brecque children were forthcoming with investigators initially, but this summer, several of them were re-interviewed and provided statements implicating both the Harrods and La Brecques.

One of La Brecque's daughters told an investigator that after visiting Harrod one summer and avoiding his advances, she returned to Texas and was told by her father that she had "failed" her ceremony to become an adult and would have to return the following summer to do it again, the federal affidavit says.

At about the same time, a son of the Harrods had been sent to live with the La Brecques.

He told investigators that his mother and Juliette La Brecque both molested him, that he was regularly beaten with a belt by Michael La Brecque and that his fingers had been broken.

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