In what investigators are calling a "horrendous" case of child abuse, five members of a Missouri family — a father and his four adult sons — are being charged with a host of shocking crimes against children as young as 11 years old.
Burrell Edward Mohler Sr., 77, and his sons were charged with committing numerous crimes, including child rape, sodomy and using a child in a sexual performance.
Police said Wednesday they were searching for more potential victims, including possible bodies on land owned by the family. Five victims have been located, but the number "could possibly expand," said Cpl. Bill Lowe of the Missouri highway patrol. He said all of the victims were under the age of 12 when they were molested.
“There may be other victims out there,” Lafayette County Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh told reporters at a news conference.
Charged with multiple counts of child rape are Mohler Sr., of Independence, Mo., and sons Burrell Edward Mohler Jr., 53, of Independence, and 48-year-old Jared Leroy Mohler of Columbia, Mo. David A. Mohler, 52, of Lamoni, Iowa, was charged with one count of child rape, and Roland Neil Mohler, 47, of Bates City, Mo., is accused of using a child in a sexual performance — a felony. The suspects also face sodomy charges.
Police said the crimes were committed between 1988 and 1995, though they might have continued after that period.
Alumbaugh said authorities believe there may be a body or bodies buried on the land owned by the family and asked for the public's help in the investigation.
The Lafayette County Prosecutors office issued probable cause documents claiming that several female relatives and one male relative of the five men were abused, Fox4KC.com said. At one point, a female relative told investigators she was forced to have sex with a dog, according to the documents.
The woman said she was forced to have an abortion when she was 11 years old and that she and her four sisters were forced to participate in mock marriage ceremonies before the men had sex with them, according to court documents.
Detectives said the woman told them that the five men in custody all were involved in using the family dog, a German shepherd, to sexually abuse her, Fox4KC.com said.
The five suspects were arrested Tuesday and are being held without bond.
Police and cadaver dogs searched a patch of land on a farm Wednesday near Bates City, Mo., scouring the property for glass jars with notes the victims allegedly wrote 20 years ago.
Lowe said one of the girls, a daughter of one of the suspects, came forward with her story in mid-August. He said she and her siblings have been cooperating in the investigation.
Lowe said the woman told investigators that she and the other victims, three girls and a boy, buried glass jars around the property, filled with messages "about what was happening to them" when they were younger.
"Right now what our main focus is the glass jars and trying to locate them," Lowe said. "Those jars have that information."
Columbia police seized a computer and discs from Jared Mohler's home on Tuesday, police spokeswoman Jessie Haden said.
One of the suspects, David Mohler, has worked for Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, for 27 years; he was arrested on its Independence campus.
"Police came in and put handcuffs on him and led him away," university President John Sellars said. "It was all very quiet and subdued."
He said David Mohler periodically traveled to Independence to work on Graceland's phone systems there. Sellars described David Mohler as "a very nice person who got along well with his colleagues."
"We were stunned," Sellars said. "At this point these are allegations, and of course we need to hear more because I don't know very much at this point."
Sellars said he spoke to David Mohler's wife, Michelle Mohler, on Tuesday, and that she was "shocked and stunned."
He said the couple has grown children, but he did not know their ages or where they lived.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.