Couple guilty of sex abuse

Sacramento Bee/January 23, 2004
By Mareva Brown

Jury convicts Folsom pair of ritualistic crimes against their own children.

He claimed to be a man of God, but his children described him as a devil who raped and molested his girls for two decades, rewarding the most obedient children with jewelry and family status.

On Thursday, Allen Harrod's children were freed from their powerless past by a jury that believed their stories and moved quickly to mete out justice.

After just 10 hours of deliberation, jurors convicted Harrod of all 32 charges of child molestation against him, plus a special circumstance that makes him eligible to be sentenced to life in prison. His wife, Irene Hunt, was convicted of all 18 charges against her, which stemmed from the molestation of two of her sons and incidents in which she taught a daughter how to perform sex acts for Harrod.

"We were the children's voice," said juror Alycia Price, an insurance claims adjustor who had tears in her eyes as the case ended.

As the first guilty verdict was read in Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee's courtroom, Harrod's attorney, Dani Williams, leaned forward and put her arm around his shoulders. The defendants showed no reaction.

Hunt's attorney, Dean Johansson, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the verdicts because molestation charges naturally elicit emotional responses.

"It's very difficult to maintain objectivity in a case involving such horrible allegations," he said. "Like so many (cases) of ritual child abuse, it will be many years before we can look back and judge the facts reasonably."

Since Dec. 1, a jury of seven men and five women had heard Harrod's children describe a childhood home devoid of parental love, one in which misbehavior was answered with a belt, sexual behavior was rewarded with a soda, and children were segregated from adults during meals and often locked outside their Folsom home to play.

The children testified that they never had a Christmas or got a birthday gift or cake from their father. Instead they were forced to keep weekly journals of the "offerings" they made for their "Lord" -- Harrod, 58.

The abuse began in the early 1980s, according to the eldest daughter, now 29, who reported the abuse to Folsom police two years ago after her then-boyfriend confronted Harrod. She had told the boyfriend about the abuse after having a nightmare that Harrod was molesting their son. The eldest daughter testified that her molestation began when she was 6 and living in Utah with her father and mother, Ila Harrod.

A few years later, the Harrods moved to Folsom. Shortly after they arrived, Ila Harrod's sister, Irene Hunt, and her children moved in with the family. Although Hunt and Harrod never formally married, they apparently participated in a ceremony that formalized Hunt's status as Harrod's second wife. Hunt's baptismal certificate was signed by Harrod, who at that time was an elder in the Mormon church.

Soon, however, Harrod drifted from the church and wrote his own scripture, borrowing liberally from Mormon and Jewish doctrine.

"He was not in any way Mormon; he was just bastardizing these religions to justify the molestations," said prosecutor Chris Ore. He said the guilty verdicts will "open the eyes of people that there are dark parts of society where people do these things to kids."

Harrod described himself as a prophet and adopted the biblical name "Isaac," requiring his children and wives to call him either Isaac or "Lord." Hunt bore him two sons and Ila Harrod bore him another boy.

At the same time, two daughters testified, they were being required to perform oral sex upon their father at least weekly. The eldest girl described being sodomized at age 8, while her father pressed a pillow over her head to muffle her screams. When the daughter was 11, Ila Harrod took her children and fled Harrod's home.

Hunt then assumed the role of Harrod's first wife, bearing him six children -- four boys and two girls. With the exception of one son, the boys were sent away when they reached the age of 7 or 8, living in Texas with Harrod's so-called religious "bishop," Michael Labrecque.

Labrecque's young daughters in turn were sent to Harrod for "religious training," according to trial testimony.

Harrod's remaining son nicknamed them "the Fabs" because they all were slender and pretty.

While in California, the Labrecque girls never attended school, instead performing chores around the house and sexual favors for Harrod. The youngest daughter testified that when her "numbers" of weekly sexual offerings to Harrod dropped, an older sister was sent to counsel her to engage him more often.

Federal charges are pending against Labrecque and his wife, Juliette, for allegedly sending their children across state lines for illicit purposes.

Eventually, the eldest Labrecque girl became another of Harrod's wives. She now has a daughter by him.

In the years preceding his October 2001 arrest, Harrod required the teenage girls to honor the Sabbath every Friday and Saturday in skimpy, tight dresses ordered from Frederick's of Hollywood catalogs. The dresses -- more than a dozen red, black or gold outfits -- were presented to jurors by Ore, who asked the girls to identify which ones they wore.

On each Sabbath, Harrod blew an ancient Jewish horn, the Shofar, while his children stood in a line that signified their rank in the family. The girls' rank was determined by how many sexual favors they had performed for him that week, they testified.

Harrod's second-youngest daughter told jurors that she wanted desperately to move up in the family rank but didn't want to perform the sexual acts that were required.

Harrod's attorney, Williams, tried to pick apart her testimony, saying the girl made up the molestations to get attention.

But jurors called the case "black and white" and said they never doubted the credibility of the six victims they heard.

"It was emotional," said juror Robert Najar, who operates a commercial printing business. "I really feel for the children. But this will help them. They can put this part of their lives away."

Judge Candee is to sentence Harrod and Hunt on Feb. 23.

When their parents were convicted Thursday, the Harrods' children were attending school or running errands.

"This is wonderful closure," said the eldest daughter, who lives in Southern California. "When you have a dad who is all powerful and you think he's smarter than you, to be able to finally say, 'Dad, everything you put us through was wrong,' is awesome. I'm so happy, I feel like crying."

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