The sex-cult scandal at Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula is believed to have started when there were no legitimate church members left, two former church members said.
After Louis Lamonica Jr. became the preacher he began excommunicating members -- including his own family -- for various reasons.
According to people who attended the church in the 1980s, when Louis Lamonica Sr. was still the pastor, the church was a wonderful church that inspired many other members to go out and create churches of their own.
After the death of the elder Lamonica, Glen Fendalson became pastor. Bray Sibley, the church's youth preacher, left soon afterward to start Harvest Assembly in the Bunny Bread Store on Wardline Road. That church eventually grew and required a larger sanctuary on Crapanzano Road, eventually leading to the new sanctuary, built along the Interstate 12 Service Road.
One former church member said others had left in the '80s and joined the flourishing Harvest following.
Kitty Morrison, Sibley's sister, said the younger Lamonica was a quiet person who played guitar in the band alongside her brother.
"I kept hearing stories," Morrison said Thursday from her job at St. Amant School, located in the former site of Harvest Church. "Because all of his family wouldn't talk to him (Lamonica), or rather, he wouldn't talk to his family anymore, and everyone was just heartbroken. He even took out restraining orders against them. Even my husband tried to intervene, carrying a letter from the family to Lamonica Jr., but it was to no avail."
The grandmother of Lamonica's children, Angie Lamonica, and her family were barred from entering the church or seeing the children, Morrison explained.
"He put a restraining order on this wonderful woman and simply refused to reconcile," Morrison said. "She hasn't seen the children in two years or more. People asked him to reconcile with his mother, who was heartbroken. His father influenced thousands of lives, including my brother, and helped him enter the ministry."
Morrison taught school at Hosanna when the church had a working school, and explained that other churches broke off from the church in its early years after Lamonica Sr. died.
After the restraining orders, Lamonica Jr. began excommunicating members of the church who visited other churches, and membership really began to dwindle, Morrison said.
There were only eight members of the church still attending its services when Morrison last checked with Lamonica.
Sharon Coats, also a former teacher at the Hosanna school, said she and her daughter saw Lamonica Jr. and his teenage son viewing pornography in the Springfield Library a few years ago and were shocked.