Sheriff calls on Allen to surrender

Sightings of fugitive pastor and church members reported

Atlanta Journal-Constitution/June 5, 2003
By Jill Young Miller

Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett said there have been tips of sightings of House of Prayer leader the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., but he and two followers remain on the lam.

"Rev. Allen, turn yourself in," Barrett pleaded at a news conference this morning at the Fulton County courthouse.

The Sheriff's Department has been unable to capture the 71-year-old pastor, who may also have his wife and seven children with him.

"We will eventually capture you," Barrett said. "You cannot hide forever. Make things easier for yourself, for your family, for your church and your community."

Barrett said she believes House of Prayer members are helping Allen. She urged him to "stand up and take responsibility for yourself and your actions and adhere to the laws of our state."

Last October, a Fulton County jury convicted Allen and four fellow church members of cruelty to children after two boys, then 10 and 7, showed up at their elementary school with welts and bruises. The boys had been whipped -- at the House of Prayer, an independent church on Hollywood Road in northwest Atlanta -- for misbehaving.

Allen was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 10 years' probation. Church member David Duncan received 40 days in jail and eight years' probation and his wife, Sharon Duncan, received 20 days in jail and five years' probation.

They served their jail time and were released under conditions, including that they only hand-spank their children.

On March 7, a judge issued arrest warrants for Allen and the Duncans after they skipped a hearing to determine whether their probation should be revoked. They had refused to attend anger-management counseling and objected to the judge's order that they abstain from whipping their children with a belt, probation officers testified.

Barrett said today that her department has received tips of sightings of Allen traveling on highways in the metro Atlanta area.

She said investigators also suspect members of his close-knit church are aiding him and the Duncans, who also fled in March after skipping the same court hearing.

Barrett said Allen would be treated humanely if he surrendered.

Allen --- who preached a spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child theology --- had run the independent church for more than 35 years and was deeply involved in his 130 or so followers' lives. Then, in March, his phone was disconnected and he was gone.

Meanwhile, the Duncans abandoned their home on Culpepper Street, leaving the lawn strewn with toys, clothes and furniture. They had at least eight children under 18.

Manny Arora, an attorney hired to appeal their criminal convictions, said this week he had not heard from Allen or the Duncans since before they fled and had no clue where they might be.

"How do you hide out at age 70 with seven kids?" Arora wondered. "Where exactly do you go with seven kids where somebody in town doesn't notice you?"

If House of Prayer members know their whereabouts, they weren't saying this week. Church member Vickie Hightower said, "We're not giving any interviews on that."

She said members are conducting church services in Allen's absence.

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