The founder of the Watts-based Ecclesia Athletic Assn. said Thursday that allegations of child abuse against his followers stem from cultural differences and blamed the beating death of his 8-year-old daughter on pressure created by “irresponsible media.”
Ecclesia founder Eldridge Broussard appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show Thursday to give his account of his daughter’s death.
Police said Broussard’s daughter Dayna was beaten to death last week at the athletic association’s rural home near Sandy, Ore., 25 miles east of Portland.
Broussard provided few details of his daughter’s death--citing the advice of his lawyers. Instead, he assailed the news media for portraying him as “the new Jim Jones,” a reference to a cult leader responsible for the deaths of hundreds of followers in Guyana in 1978.
He also blamed reports of child abuse at his group’s home on differences in perception between residents of Watts and people in rural Oregon.
He said that when he first met with investigators, he was told “how brutal my daughter was beaten.” But he said one of his followers whom police arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in the beating told him: “You’re going to have to explain to me what they mean by brutal . . . because, El, I saw (Dayna), I saw her, and that’s not what was happening.”
Broussard said that when he viewed the body, he saw the incisions made during the autopsy, then asked, “Now, where were you pointing to with the beatings and all?
“And they said, ‘Look, look right here, can you see right here?'--right where he was having to show me beyond what the autopsy did what they were referring to.”
“I said in my mind, ‘Uh-oh. Now we’re in interpretation problems.’
Life in Watts
“Watts parents see brutalities that would trip the minds of the average American out,” he said. “The people that are part of my school, when you say brutal, they see ears coming off, they see giant, huge lacerations. That’s their interpretation of brutal,” Broussard said.
“You go into Oregon, (the interpretation is) a mark, you know, a little blood, a scratch.
“As I was listening to the interpretation of the (police) officer in what he termed child abuse to be, I said, ‘Man!’ ” Broussard said, shaking his head.
He refused to describe the marks on his daughter’s body but said he would provide a full explanation in court.
After Dayna’s death, the state took custody of 55 children found in the house, where authorities allege the youngsters were regularly abused.
Authorities also claimed that the children watched the fatal beating of Broussard’s daughter, for which seven adults face manslaughter charges. An autopsy showed that the girl died of head injuries and also had been whipped extensively.
Broussard denied that children at his home were beaten and abused, saying only that they were “spanked.” He refused to describe what he meant by spanking, calling it a matter of interpretation.
Tough Discipline Advocated
He said tough discipline is essential to parents “concerned about making sure in the Watts community that their child grows up staying out of precarious situations with the police.”
“In their mind, they say, ‘We’re going to do what’s necessary to keep the police from taking a night stick and beating you over the head.’ ”
He said that when he viewed Dayna’s body, he made a promise.
“I said, ‘Baby, we’re going to get everybody responsible for this,’ ” Broussard said.
“Whoever was responsible for not seeing what they were doing with my daughter, they made a serious mistake,” he said. “But I contend that a serious mistake was perpetuated by someone that’s not even being implicated right now--irresponsible media.”
He said coverage of his group--portraying it as a cult--put himself and his followers in a pressure cooker, “a position were we were having to scowl and hide.”
“That has my group, to this day, paranoid, extremely paranoid,” he said.
He said he is not sure his daughter’s death was the result of a beating.
Asked the reason for his daughter’s death, he replied:
“I think my daughter is dead, the most honest thing I could say, is that the Lord determined that we were to pass through this for right now.”