Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cult Leader Arrested In Utah

*Story spotted on “Religion News Blog”

2nd Fromberg Sect Leader Arrested

FROMBERG — A leader of a transplanted Utah religious sect accused of raping a 15-year-old girl was arrested in Wyoming Thursday after peacefully surrendering to law enforcement officials, a day after a fellow church leader was arrested at their compound near here.

Terrill Dalton, 43, was arrested on a warrant issued by authorities in Salt Lake City on two counts of first-degree rape. Dalton is the president of the Holy Ghost of the Church of the Firstborn of the General Assembly of Heaven, a group of former Mormons who fled Utah last year after federal authorities raided their headquarters.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Marshals Service went to the church’s new headquarters near Fromberg looking for Dalton and Geody Harman, who describes himself as First Counsel of the church.

Harman, 37, was arrested at the property on a Utah warrant charging him with the rape of the same 15-year-old girl. Dalton could not be found.

On Thursday at about 4:45 p.m., the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Department arrested Dalton near Thermopolis, Wyo. Acting Montana U.S. Marshal Rod Ostermiller said he was picked up after calling authorities, telling them where he was and then surrendering.

The warrant out of Utah asked for a $250,007 bond. Dalton is being held at the Hot Springs County jail and an extradition hearing had not been set for him as of 9:30 p.m.

Harman remained Thursday in the Yellowstone County jail on a $250,007 bond. The reason for the unusual amount was not known. He has yet to make an initial appearance in court, and it is unclear if he has been assigned a public defender. Harman can challenge the warrant or agree to waive extradition proceedings and be returned voluntarily to Utah.

Dalton, who claims to be the Holy Ghost and the father of Jesus Christ, would have been arrested on the warrant if he remained in Montana, Ostermiller said.

A man came to the door Thursday at the church’s rental property at 605 Bridger-Fromberg Road surrounded by three young boys.

“We have no comment,” the man said as he ordered the boys back into the house. He declined to give his name.

A “for sale” sign has been placed on the property, which was the scene of a murder in May 2009 when a 66-year-old man shot his 43-year-old son in the back during a dispute. The sign lists Realtor Tera Reynolds as the agent.

Reynolds said Thursday that the house has been for sale for little more than a year and was placed back on the market about two months ago. The church members living on the property have a month-to-month rental agreement, Reynolds said. She declined to identify the property owners.

A neighbor, Valerie Wichman, said news of the arrest Wednesday traveled quickly. Wichman was interviewed by The Gazette in March and said then that she was concerned about her new neighbors.

“I knew eventually it was going to happen,” Wichman said Thursday of the police activity at the property the day before. “There are bad people in the world, and we have some right here.”

Wichman said she has seen numerous children and young girls on the property, and she is concerned for their welfare in light of the allegations against the church leaders.

“It’s pretty unreal that this is allowed to go on,” she said.

According to the arrest warrants, the girl told Utah authorities that sometime in 2005 or 2006 she was told by Harman and Dalton that she would be “blessed” for having sex with them.

Members of the church fled from Utah to Idaho last year after their large home was raided by federal authorities. The raid was conducted to investigate claims of child sexual abuse and assassination threats against President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and Thomas S. Monson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Church members began moving from Idaho to the Fromberg property last September. Harman told The Gazette in March that he did not know how many people lived on the property but said the number was about 16, including his wife and nine children.