Amite -- Three children are the victims at the center of a child-sex ring operating out of a Ponchatoula church for five years, a sheriff's detective testified in court Wednesday.
What is missing from the court case as it stands are the allegations of occult activity as the motive for the sexual abuse of children and animals, he said. No physical evidence of the occult, such as pentagrams drawn on the floor and spell books were ever found, Tangipahoa Parish sheriff's Detective Mike DePhillips told the court.
"You heard today that they couldn't find any evidence of the occult, so that is a dead issue," said Assistant Public Defender Reginald McIntyre, who represents defendants Paul Fontenot and Patricia Pierson.
Prosecutor Don Wall confirmed after the hearing that the occult element won't be a part of the state's case.
Instead, the case is based mostly on statements made by the three children -- one girl and two boys -- who repeatedly were raped by, or forced to engage in various sex acts with, most of the defendants at least twice a week from 2000 to 2001 at Hosanna Church and a home of three of its members, DePhillips said. There is at least one other victim who wasn't mentioned in court.
"He cannot even remember a time when he was not molested," DePhillips said about the younger boy.
DePhillips was the only witness called during a preliminary examination hearing Wednesday held in 21st Judicial District Court for six of the nine alleged members of the church.
Defendants in the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse for the hearing Wednesday were Robbin Lamonica, 45, Holden; Christopher Labat, 24, Hammond; Austin "Trey" Bernard III, 36, Hammond; Paul Fontenot, 21, Hammond; Patricia Pierson, 54, Hammond and Allen R. Pierson, 46, Hammond. All six were indicted by a grand jury last week on various counts of aggravated rape of a juvenile under age 12.
Three remaining defendants -- former Hosanna Pastor Louis David Lamonica, 45, Tickfaw; Lois Ann Mowbray, 54, Ponchatoula; and Nicole Bernard, 36, Columbus, Ohio, were not in court.
All of the church members except Nicole Bernard and Mowbray were indicted by a grand jury last week of aggravated rape of a juvenile under age 12, which carries a potential death sentence.
While being questioned for two hours Wednesday by six attorneys, DePhillips revealed essential elements of the Sheriff's Office's two-month investigation into the alleged sexual activity centering on the Hosanna Church on Southwest Railroad Avenue in Hammond and the Bernard residence on Amelia Lane in Hammond.