4 Girls Taken From Evangelist Tony Alamo's Compound to Stay With State

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Four girls taken from an evangelist's compound in southwest Arkansas will remain in state custody after their parents waived a probable cause hearing, a state official says.

Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services, said Monday that parents of four of the girls taken from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries compound waived their right to a probable cause hearing before a Miller County judge.

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The girls were two sets of sisters taken from the compound, she said. An adjudication hearing on whether the girls will stay in state care will be held Oct. 21.

Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson ruled Friday that the state had probable cause to keep two other girls in custody.

Meanwhile, residents of Fouke, Ark., are waiting to find out what will happen to the compound following Alamo's arrest.

Some residents say they don't know why it took so long for authorities to act against Alamo group.

Ryan Lessard, 36, had long taken issue with Alamo's message that young girls are ready to marry when they reach puberty. Former members of Alamo's group have alleged there were underage marriages and beatings at the compound.

Lessard had painted his van with messages such as "Phony Alamo, preaching pedophile," and parked it at City Hall and at an intersection in the middle of the town of 800 residents.

With the 74-year-old Alamo charged under the Mann act, which is usually applied in interstate prostitution cases, Lessard said he hopes to see a change among Alamo's followers.

"If they're willing to open up and kind of move into the community, and not treat us like a bunch of heathen outsiders, I don't mind those people staying," Lessard said.

If Alamo's followers don't move to become part of the ordinary citizens, Lessard said he would "like to see their property taken, and the whole entire community moved out of town."

Alamo was arrested Thursday at a hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz. He is accused of transporting minors across state lines for sexual purposes and is being held as a flight risk.

State and federal raided the Fouke compound on Sept. 20, taking six girls into state protective custody.

Barbershop owner Wayne Lynn said he wants to know more about the case before he forms an opinion.

"If they've molested little girls up there, nothing is too harsh for them," Lynn, 74, said.