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Search for Cult Leader Intensifies : Fugitive: Tony Alamo reportedly moved his wife’s body from an Arkansas mausoleum and threatened to kidnap a federal judge.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hunt for fugitive cult leader Tony Alamo has intensified because he admitted stealing his wife Susan’s body from an Arkansas mausoleum and threatened to kidnap a federal judge, federal authorities said Thursday.

Also on Thursday, Susan Alamo’s daughter, Christhiaon Susan Coie, issued a public plea to her stepfather to return her mother’s body so she can be buried in a family plot. Coie was repeating an appeal made on an Arkansas television station earlier this week.

“My mother is entitled to be buried like a human being,” Coie, 40, said in a telephone interview from her Los Angeles home. “If there was ever an inkling of love for my mother, I’m begging you to return her body.”

Alamo has been a fugitive since he fled California in 1989 after being charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office with beating the child of a follower in a Saugus commune operated by the secretive Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation. Federal officials say he is believed to be supported in part by revenues from the cult’s sale of designer denim jackets, sold in trendy shops for up to $600.

Alamo was quoted in an Arkansas newspaper last month as saying that his wife’s body is rightfully his and he gave no indication that he would return it.

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“I stole nothing,” he said, according to the Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith, Ark., on Feb. 21, five days after the body was discovered missing from its small granite mausoleum on Alamo’s 250-acre compound near Dyer, Ark.

U.S. marshals began seizing the Georgia Ridge, Ark., compound Feb. 13 to settle a $1.8-million federal District Court judgment against the Alamo Foundation. The judgment was won in a civil case filed in Arkansas by a former Alamo follower who alleged that Alamo beat his children and alienated his family at the Arkansas commune.

Alamo has been sought since 1989 by the FBI for illegal flight to avoid prosecution on the Los Angeles charge, and also by the Internal Revenue Service for several million dollars in unpaid taxes. But the search intensified late last month after he threatened in the Arkansas newspaper interview to kidnap the federal judge who presided over the civil trial.

After his wife died of cancer in 1982, Tony Alamo prayed over the body and predicted that she would be resurrected. He embalmed her body and reportedly kept it on display in Arkansas for six months until it was placed in the mausoleum on the Arkansas compound.

Arkansas attorney Charles Carr said Coie was granted a restraining order Feb. 15 demanding that her mother’s body remain on the property. A day later, officials discovered the mausoleum had been smashed and Susan Alamo’s casket removed.

Alamo could not be reached Thursday. But last month he was quoted in the Southwest Times Record as saying he took his wife’s body to prevent federal authorities from “desecrating” it.

“I paid for that coffin,” Alamo was quoted as saying. “We were of one flesh. They were going to desecrate her body. I have it.”

In the same interview, Alamo allegedly threatened to kidnap U.S. District Judge Morris Arnold, saying Arnold “will stand before me in my court.”

Criminal charges were filed against Alamo in Fort Smith the next day by U.S. Atty. Mike Fitzhugh, who said Alamo faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted.

FBI agent Don Whitehead, based in Little Rock, said the search for Alamo has intensified since the threats. He said agents were pursuing several leads but declined to elaborate.

Mike Blevins, chief deputy U.S. marshal in Fort Smith, said finding Alamo is difficult because he has plenty of money available to finance his flight and a network of supporters willing to shield him from authorities.

The Alamo foundation has gained notoriety for circulating anti-Catholic literature. In 1985, its tax-exempt status was revoked after the IRS determined that one of the organization’s primary purposes was making money for its leaders.


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