MILLER COUNTY, AR (KSLA) - Arkansas State Police made a third raid on the Alamo Ministries compound in Miller County Tuesday. The raid in Fouke happened at the same time a raid was taking place at another Alamo compound in Sebastian County.
State police say the raids took place after a request from the state's office of Child Protective Services.
"The order was directed by DHS. Again, State Police were mentioned in the order only as a precaution to ensure the safety of the children and the safety of DHS personnel on the site," said Arkansas State Police PIO Bill Sadler.
Though no children were found at either location, police did find 18 kids believed to be associated with Alamo ministries during in a traffic stop shortly after the raid. They are now in state custody. Three other children at the Miller County Courthouse with their parents were also taken into custody by Child Protective Services.
The mayor of Fouke says he's surprised at the additional raids.
"With all that's coming out in the court with the testimonies and everything I figure this is going to be ongoing for awhile," said Fouke Mayor Terry Pervis.
Authorities would not say what prompted this latest raid.
As more children were turned over to Child Protective Services for care, the custody hearing for six girls removed from the compound during a previous police raid continued.
On Monday, a 14-year-old girl taken by the state during the September raid testified that Alamo molested her, counted a number of young girls as his wives, and coached her and others to say they weren't touched improperly or beaten.
She said Alamo crept up behind her while she was showering, held his hand over her mouth and sexually molested her. She said Alamo warned her to keep quiet, saying if she didn't, she'd be beaten by a man who witnesses have described as Alamo's enforcer.
Alamo, 74, is charged with two counts of transporting a juvenile across state lines for sex, once in 2004 and again the following year. The preacher, listed in court documents by his real name, Bernie Lazar Hoffman, has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, each of which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is in jail in Texarkana awaiting trial, which is set to begin in February.
Alamo has preached that the Bible allows young girls to marry once they reach puberty but has said he didn't adopt the practice.
His attorney, John Wesley Hall Jr., said Tuesday he doubts Alamo can get a fair trial in Texarkana because of the media scrutiny surrounding the case. He said Alamo is an easy target in the child welfare hearings because Alamo is in jail and can't attend the 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.
The 14-year-old girl, who spent much of her time in Alamo's organization in Fort Smith, testified that Alamo coached her and others to say they weren't sexually molested or beaten, and said Alamo recorded interviews with the girls to document the statements.
"Tony told us what he was going to ask us and what we were supposed to say," the girl testified.
The girl reiterated claims by witnesses at a bond hearing last month, including that Alamo had taken several young girls as wives.
She listed eight names, including Alamo's legal wife, Sharon Alamo, as being the "sisters in the house" at Alamo's residence in Fouke, where she said she lived for a time.
"They all wear wedding rings. They go into his room at night and close the door. They're the only ones that do that," said the girl, who said she lived for a time at Alamo's Fouke residence.