Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body

Los Angeles Times/February 20, 1997
By James Ricci

The Arkansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed on a technicality religious cult leader Tony Alamo's appeal of an order requiring him to produce the missing body of his long-dead wife for burial.

The body of Susan Alamo, who died of cancer in 1982, disappeared from a Dyer, Arkansas mausoleum owned by the cult in 1991, shortly after federal authorities moved to seize church assets for tax irregularities.

In 1995, a lower court found that Alamo was responsible for the theft of Susan Alamo's remains. The couple had built a religious cult and business empire from a storefront effort to reclaim drug users and teenage runaways in Hollywood during the 1960s.

The court ordered Alamo to return the body so its identity can be verified by an Arkansas medical examiner prior to a "proper and legal entombment."

The court order resulted from a suit brought by the dead woman's daughter, former cult member Christhiaon Coie of Reseda. It ordered Alamo, who is nearing the end of a six-year federal sentence for tax evasion, to produce the body or be jailed for contempt of court upon his expected release from federal prison in Texarkana, Tex.

"I'm just so happy today," Coie said Wednesday. "He had no right to do anything like this. This is so perverse. So insane."

Alamo, a flamboyant evangelist who acted as his own attorney on the appeal, has alternately confirmed and denied he knows the whereabouts of the body.

Coie's lawyer, Charles Karr of Fort Smith, Ark., said the appeals court threw out Alamo's appeal because it wasn't filed in a timely manner. He said decisions of the appeals court are rarely reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Karr said he wouldn't be surprised if Alamo approached the high court nonetheless. "That would be his next step if he wants to take another one, and, knowing him, he probably will."

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