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Evangelist Took 8-Year-Old Bride

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Associated Press: TEXARKANA, Ark. -- A woman who says she was a child bride of evangelist Tony Alamo told jurors Wednesday that the minister had so many partners that he had to schedule when he would have sex with them.

tony alamo evangelist arrested
The woman, now 30 and living in Florida, said she was a third-generation Alamo follower into adulthood -- until the Arkansas-based pastor took an 8-year-old as his latest bride. At one point, the woman said, she objected when Alamo graphically described how he fondled the girl as she held a stuffed animal.

"He told me to shut up and that I shouldn't question what 'the Lord told me to do,'" the woman said.

Federal prosecutors accuse Alamo, 74, of transporting five girls across state lines for sex with him between 1994 and 2005. The woman who testified Wednesday said she traveled to California, Tennessee and West Virginia when she was underage to be available to Alamo.

Alamo's lawyers suggested that she agreed to testify against her former pastor because prosecutors paid for two weeks of counseling at a mental health center that caters to former cult members.

"There wasn't anything done that helped create in your mind an image of Mr. Alamo as a demon?" chief defense lawyer Don Ervin asked.

"I didn't need help with anything like that," the woman replied.

'Hanky-panky'
Defense lawyers say the government has targeted the ministry, and Alamo says the trial is part of a Vatican-led conspiracy against him.

The said that how often Alamo would schedule sex with his female followers varied on where he was and how many were with him when he was traveling. Prosecutors allege that some girls were brought to him for sex while he was awaiting a 1994 trial on a tax evasion charge.

When Alamo was arrested in Arizona last September to face the sex-crime charges, federal agents said he had several women traveling with him, none of whom were minors.

The woman said children at the compound were taught an Alamo-approved curriculum and that they were separated by gender by fifth grade.

"He said he didn't want, as he put it, any hanky-panky between boys and girls," the woman said.

In her earlier testimony, the woman said she felt forced to become one of Alamo's brides at age 15 after he rejected a request from a boy the same age to marry her. Alamo said the Lord had told him to take her as his wife, and that she feared she and her family would be shunned if she did not submit, she testified.

"We didn't have anywhere to go," said the woman, whose parents and grandparents were also Alamo followers.

The "marriage" took place at Alamo's compound but was not formally registered with the state. Three days after an impromptu ceremony, Alamo had sex with her for the first time, she said. The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

'I was scared'
Prosecutors spent much of Wednesday going through a series of photographs of Alamo with women from his compounds. At one point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner asked the witness, "Who is the girl on the right wearing the Barbie shirt?"

The witness said it was the 8-year-old that Alamo had taken "as his wife."

During a bench conference among lawyers, Alamo grabbed a book of photos from the defense table and looked at the pictures from a distance of about 2 inches. The woman on the stand smiled occasionally while looking around the courtroom. During a glance at Alamo she wiped away a tear.

The woman acknowledged that she once wrote a letter saying life was fine inside Alamo's compound, but said he made her do so when he discovered others had posted statements critical of his ministry on the Internet. Alamo's followers regularly send letters to the media when allegations are raised against him.

The witness also testified that she left the compound briefly in 2005 after Alamo forced her to say falsely that she had had sex with her father and another woman. She returned after failing to adjust to life on the outside.

"I was born and raised there. It was all I knew. I was scared," she said through tears. "I wondered if I was making the right decision. I was told that if I left I would burn in hell."

The woman said she left for good in 2006 and contacted prosecutors after state and federal agents raided Alamo's compound near Fouke in southwestern Arkansas last Sept. 20. The government revised its indictment against Alamo to include some of her allegations.

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He is being held without bond.

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