MADISON, Va. (AP) _ Photographs of three children and three white-robed men dismembering two goats were included in a state police affidavit seeking a search warrant for two farms linked to the Finder’s cult, court records show.
But the ensuing search of the rural Madison County farms found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, Virginia authorities said today.
″We haven’t found any reason to seek anyone,″ state police spokesman Charles Vaughn.
The affidavit said the photo album titled ″The Execution of Henrietta and Igor″ was found in an earlier search of Finder property in Washington, D.C.
Among the pictures were those of a crying child looking at a decapitated goat, another captioned ″Ben finds Henrietta’s womb,″ and three others showing children playing with goat fetuses.
″I don’t know exactly how to interpret those photographs. I don’t think that anyone does,″ Vaughn said.
Authorities in Kentucky, California and Washington, D.C., where the group had ties, also were trying to determine if the Finders’ activities were improper.
″As long as we have existed there have been allegations against us on many topics because people don’t understand us and strike out against us,″ said Robert Gardner Terrell, a Finders spokesman, in an interview in Washington.
″We had two goats there in the summer and rather than just leave them there to starve in the winter, we butchered and ate them,″ he said.
″We did it with the children present because we thought it would be a good learning experience for them. It turned out to be a delightful experience for them,″ Terrell said.
″We took pictures of the event and kept them for the children as a keepsake. That was what the police found,″ he said.
Tallahassee, Fla., police were working with the FBI to located the parents of the children, four boys and two girls aged 2 to 7, found in a park last week with two men believed to be Finders members.
The children were dirty and insect-bitten and more than one showed signs of sexual abuse, said Tallahassee police investigator Cheryl Weigand. That assertion, however, was challenged Monday by an Illinois expert on child abuse called in by Florida authorities.
″If there’s been sex abuse, it’s not recent,″ Dr. Nathan Greenberg said. ″There’s apparently no evidence of recent physical harm to the children of an abusive sexual type.″
Also included in the Virginia affidavit were statements from the children made to Tallahassee authorities which apparently referred to G. Marion Pettie, 66, who established the Finders in the 1960s.
″Mr. Pettie tells everyone what to do. He is in charge,″ the statements said. ″We kids slept outside and the mommies slept inside. Men come to visit the moms and slept inside. The moms dress up and go out and do money jobs. Mr. Pettie weans the kids from moms.″
Douglas Edward Ammerman, 27, and Michael Houlihan, 28, were being held in a Florida jail in lieu of $100,000 bond each on misdemeanor child abuse charges.
The children remained in temporary shelters in Florida and were ″doing fine″ as officials attempted to identify them and locate their parents, said Scott Hunt, a Tallahassee police spokesman.
District of Columbia police said Monday that their earlier investigation of the Finders group also turned up no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
An anonymous informant’s allegations that the Finders are ″a cult and that its activities involve satanic rituals″ were not substantiated by stakeouts in December or by evidence seized at two Finders’ homes last week, police chief Maurice Turner Jr. told a news conference Monday.
However, Turner said, ″We want to assure ourselves″ that the children were not abused. ″We have not assured ourselves at this point in time.″
District of Columbia police last week seized boxes of documents, computer discs and photographs from a warehouse and a home used by the Finders and were continuing to sift through the materials and items taken from Finders.
″The lifestyle of the so-called Finders organization may differ from the societal norm, but so far the Metropolitan Police Department has not uncovered any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by any members of the group,″ Turner said. ″However, we are still involved in an extensive and detailed review process of the documents and records seized.″
Turner said an investigation of the group began last December with a complaint of ″child abuse, sexual abuse, that it was some kind of satanic cult. But we were never able to prove any of the allegations,″ he said.
Chief Turner said police had not yet identified the mothers, but Finders spokesman Terrell said Monday that the children’s mothers ″are here in Washington. There already have been conversations″ with police, he said.
″It’s a relief and I’m exhilarated to hear we are not a satanic cult,″ said Terrell.
Terrell has indicated the mothers had given permission for the children to be taken to a new planned community in Berea, Ky., and that the children then were taken to Florida on a ″vacation-camping trip.″
While rejecting Turner’s description of the Finders as a 1960s-style ″hippie″ commune, Terrell said children in the group are raised as part of the entire community.
″We believe in trying to create a danger-free environment for kids. We let them have a lot of experiences they can learn from at their own pace, without ever giving orders,″ he said.