Grand jury indicts 7 in Tangipahoa cult case

The Advocate, Channel 2 News, Baton Rouge, LA/June 25, 2005
By Steven Ward

Amite -- A Tangipahoa Parish grand jury Thursday indicted on various counts of aggravated rape seven of the nine people implicated in a devil-worshiping cult accused of sexually abusing children and animals in a Ponchatoula church.

Following the reading of the indictments, 21st Judicial District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said all the victims of the sexual abuse discussed during Friday's grand jury session were under the age of 12 but he said he has not decided if the state will seek the death penalty.

Anyone convicted of the aggravated rape of someone under the age of 12 in Louisiana can receive the death penalty as a sentence, according to state law.

The seven people indicted on aggravated rape charges are:

  • Former Hosanna Church Pastor Louis David Lamonica, 46, Tickfaw -- six counts.
  • Lamonica's wife, Robbin Lamonica, 45, of Holden -- two counts.
  • Former Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Blair Labat, 24, of Hammond -- four counts.
  • Austin Bernard III, 36, of Hammond -- four counts.
  • Paul Fontenot, 21, of Hammond -- four counts.
  • Allen R. Pierson, 46, of Hammond -- four counts.
  • Patricia Pierson, 54, of Hammond, who is the wife of Allen R. Pierson, -- two counts.

Louis David Lamonica walked into the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office on May 16 and told detectives that he and other members of the group had sex with children as well as participated in occult rituals involving cat blood at the church, detectives have said.

Louis David Lamonica, who also reportedly admitted to having sex with a dog, was the first of nine people to be arrested in connection with the case.

Although Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said Friday he could not disclose the final number of victims involved in the case, he and other investigators have said in the past that the number could be up to two dozen. The victims ranged in age from toddlers to pre-teens.

The two defendants in the case connected to the sex cult who were not indicted Friday are Austin Bernard's wife, Nicole Bernard, 36, of Columbus Ohio, and Lois Ann Mowbray, 54, Ponchatoula.

Perrilloux said Friday that after talking with Nicole Bernard's attorney, prosecutors decided to "pass" on bringing her case before the grand jury Friday. Perrilloux said it was still possible that Nicole Bernard's case could be taken before a grand jury at a later date.

Nicole Bernard, arrested and booked with aggravated rape of a juvenile under the age of 13, first called Louisiana detectives while still in Ohio and told them that she feared for her life and for the life of her child.

Nicole Bernard also told authorities about the alleged sexual abuse at the church that reportedly occurred between 1999 and 2003 -- the year Hosanna Church officially closed.

When asked if a deal was made and if Nicole Bernard would be testifying against the others in the case, Perrilloux said no deals had been made at this point.

The other suspect, Mowbray, was booked with obstruction of justice, failure to report a felony and accessory after the fact to aggravated rape.

Perrilloux said that the charges against Mowbray do not require indictments from a grand jury and that his office could just file those charges. Perrilloux would not say Friday if those charges would be filed against Mowbray or not.

Preliminary hearings are set for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse in Amite for some of the defendants and arraignments for all of the defendants indicted Friday will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at the same courthouse.

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