Tony Alamo church empire dismantled

KTBS 3, Louisiana/August 13, 2014

By Julie Parr

Fouke, Arkansas -- Tony Alamo spent decades working as a christian ministry tycoon with an empire that stretched from California to Arkansas.

However, it was while he was living in the small town of Fouke, known as home to a mythical monster, that Alamo's own horrific crimes landed him behind bars.

He is serving life for a long list of offenses that include battery, false imprisonment and marrying his victims, children, as young as 8-years old.

With the the holdings of the Alamo ministry liquidated and put to better use, residents say his ministry is out of Fouke for good, but how hard will it be to shake the cult leader's legacy?

The Tony Alamo Christian Ministry was set up in the Texarkana area in the 1990's. It was because the previously California-based evangelist was serving federal prison time for tax evasion.

Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis remembers when Alamo and his followers set up a compound on the edge of town.

"The more we start learning about this, the more we knew we had to get involved and put a stop to it," said Purvis.

In 2008, the dismantling of Alamo's million dollar ministry began. FBI agents raided his home and seized seven girls, later believed to be Alamo's child brides.

A year later, he was sentenced to life in prison.

The women were awarded more than $1 billion by an Arkansas judge. Alamo also owes $30 million to two men who were beaten, starved, and denied education, while being raised in the ministry.

Several of Alamo's properties have already been sold to help satisfy the court judgment including his church building in Fouke.

The individual that bought the Fouke church building donated it to the Sanctuary of Hope Church in Fouke. Jonathan Stanley is the pastor.

"Within ourselves we knew when we started praying that we didn't have the means to acquire that property. We just believed that God would provide," said Stanley.

Judy Frazier is a longtime Fouke resident and member of the non-denominational church. She recalls two boys whom she helped escape Alamo's control.

"The Alamo followers just happen to be standing guard duty that night, so I pulled into a side road there beside the church and waited. The two boys came from different directions and got in my vehicle. I carried them to Little Rock," Frazier recalls.

She says when the Tony Alamo Christian Ministry signs are taken down in Fouke next month the whole community will be celebrating.

"I had been praying before that if there is anyway I can help anyone in there, please give me that opportunity, and He did. I never dreamed that one day he would put that property into our hands," said Frazier.

The city of Fouke has found some closure with these properties sold, but unfortunately Alamo who is still in prison has followers in other places.

"Tony Alamo is still preaching his word from prison and his message is still getting out because his followers are able to obtain that material," said Jeanne Philyaw, PACA.

Philyaw is a member of the group PACA or Partnered Against Cult Activity.

She actively spoke out against Alamo during his trial, calling him the worst kind of predator using the name of God to abuse children.

"As long as that kind of hatred can be put out, there will always need to be prayer and people watching," said Philyaw.

Alamo is now 79 years old and currently serving out his 175-year prison sentence in Tuscon, Arizona.

Prosecutors say some of Alamo's property sold for as much as a quarter of a million dollars.

In an ironic twist, one of the properties belonged to former Judge Jim Hudson who presided over the child custody hearings.

After Hudson's death in 2009, prosecutors say Alamo followers purchased the home.

Now it's being sold, and the money will go to Alamo's victims.

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