ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man who lived with his wife and 15 children inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (search) — and engaged in a widely publicized feud with the park service — has been charged with numerous counts of sexual assault and incest.
Alaska State Troopers searched Monday for Robert A. Hale (search), 64, who goes by the name Papa Pilgrim. "He could be anywhere," said agency spokesman Greg Wilkinson.
Hale was indicted Thursday by a state grand jury on 30 felony counts, including 10 counts of sexual assault, one count of kidnapping, eight counts of incest, eight counts of coercion and three counts of assault. The indictment lists just one victim.
Hale's wife, Country Rose Hale (search), said family members cooperated in the investigation.
"We're just trying to do everything we can to support them," she told The Associated Press.
Troopers said the alleged crimes covered eight years, but Hale's wife didn't want to talk about it.
"We're sorry. We just appreciate the prayers of many thousands of people out there that could help us get through all this," she said. "God is on the throne and he's going to forgive Papa for the things he's done wrong."
Hale and his family bought a 410-acre parcel inside the 13.2 million-acre national park in spring 2002. The family claimed to be deeply religious and wanted to live off the land.
Hale has had an ongoing dispute with the National Park Service (search) involving access to their property about 14 miles from McCarthy, an old mining town with about 50 residents in the park.
At one point, the park service closed the mountain road after the Hales used a bulldozer to push snow and ice from the road without a permit. The closure left the family able to access their home only by horse or airplane.
Hale accused the Park Service of trying to starve his family out. Volunteer pilots came to their assistance, flying in supplies to a small airstrip on the property.