TEXARKANA, Ark. — State officials have taken into protective custody 20 more children associated with the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, alleging they had been abused and neglected.
The children — 11 boys and 9 girls ranging in age from 1 to 17— were taken into state care Tuesday while hearings were being conducted on whether six girls seized in September should remain under state protection or be returned to their parents, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said .
The department initially said 21 children were seized but revised the number down to 20 late Tuesday.
The court order that authorized the seizure of the 20 children said there were allegations of neglect and physical abuse. Munsell would not detail the allegations.
Alamo was arrested in September, days after his compound in Fouke was raided by state and federal agents. The six girls, between ages 10 and 17, were seized for their own protection.
Alamo has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of transporting minors across state lines for sex.
Alamo has preached that the Bible allows girls to marry once they reach puberty but has said he didn't adopt the practice.
However, witness testimony and assertions from prosecutors indicate otherwise.
The hearings this week are to determine whether the girls should be returned to their parents or be placed under continued care arranged by the state.
Alamo's trial is set for February.
His lawyer, John Wesley Hall Jr., questioned whether his client will be able to get a fair trial in Texarkana considering the news coverage of the case. Hall said Alamo is an easy target in the child welfare hearings.
"Tony Alamo is not able to be there to defend himself, not able to cross-examine these people, which is a fundamental right," Hall said.