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Fathers Get Custody in Cult Case

June 29, 1988|A. DAHLEEN GLANTON | Times Staff Writer

Two Orange County men won final custody of their three sons Tuesday in the aftermath of a raid by authorities in which the boys were removed from a commune in Saugus.

The boys had been living with their mothers at a commune run by religious fundamentalist Tony Alamo.

Robert Alan Miller, 36, and his brother Carey Miller, 34, told Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard O. Frazee that their sons were beaten and emotionally abused while living with their mothers at the commune. Jeremy, 11, is Carey Miller's son and Kody, 10, and Robert, 4, are Robert Miller's sons.

In addition to awarding final custody, the judge also ordered both marriages ended as of Oct. 30, 1988, denied visitation rights to the mothers and ordered the women not to come within 200 yards of the boys' homes or schools.

Neither Robert Miller's wife, Susan Miller, 30, nor Carey Miller's wife, Carol Ann Miller, 35, contested the divorces. According to the men's attorney, Sidney Radus, lawyers for the wives had sought to delay the hearing early Tuesday, but neither the women nor their representatives appeared in court. Frazee said he found "no compelling reason" to delay the hearing.

"Justice has prevailed," Radus said.

The three boys have lived with their fathers in Orange County since March, when authorities acting on a court order raided two communes in Saugus and seized the children.

The fathers fled Alamo's organization last September, saying they feared for their lives.

Four Alamo followers were arrested on suspicion of felony child abuse, but the Los Angeles County district attorney's office decided not to file charges against them because of lack of evidence.

The Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, which has about 350 to 400 members, originated in the 1960s and earned a reputation for spreading the Gospel among young dropouts roaming the streets of Hollywood.

The Alamo Foundation, which has been the target of numerous government investigations over the years, lost its tax-exempt status after the Internal Revenue Service concluded that it was primarily a money-making enterprise that takes much of its members' income.

Leaders of the foundation, which is appealing the decision, say the organization aids the down and out by giving them work at its communes.

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