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Children Depressed, But Generally In Good Health: Psychiatrist

February 11, 1987

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Six unkempt children found in a city park with two adults are suffering some depression but generally are healthy and in good spirits, according to a psychiatrist who examined them.

″They all know each other quite well. There is a hierarchy of organization of these six children,″ said Dr. Nahman Greenberg, a Chicago psychiatrist hired by the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

Douglas Edward Ammerman, 27, and Michael Houlihan, 28, the adults found with the children Feb. 4, were arraigned today on one count each of misdemeanor child abuse. The charges stem from neglect, said authorities, who found no evidence of sexual abuse.

The two men, who wore leg irons into court, will continue to be held in the Leon County Jail, but Assistant Public Defender Mike Minerva said he would ask for a reduction in their bonds of $100,000 each.

The two men, who appeared nervous, said no when asked if they understood the charges against them.

″I don’t understand what the charge entails,″ said Houlihan. ″I understand the words but I have not seen the statute.″

Judge George Reynolds entered innocent pleas for them.

The children were dirty, bug-bitten and hungry when found. Ammerman and Houlihan, who authorities believe are associated with a Washington, D.C.-area communal group called the Finders, told police they were taking the youngsters to a school in Mexico for brilliant children.

Authorities from a half-dozen state and federal agencies have unsuccessfully tried to identify the youngsters and find their parents.

Greenberg said Tuesday he did not know if the four boys and two girls, ages 2 to 7, were related.

″There is an older child who seems to be somewhat of a leader and somewhat ... a controller,″ said Greenberg, adding that their background seemed to involve adults who treated them in a ″very domineering, controlling, autocratic, authoritarian manner.″

Greenberg said the children were suffering some depression and other psychological traumas, but that he did not know if the problems were long-term and caused by the children’s upbringing, or temporary and caused by what they had been through just before being found.

He said there were no signs of recent sexual or physical abuse.

″They, I think, are remarkably verbal,″ Greenberg said of the children. ″One of them seemed almost precociously verbal, which may also be part of the survivalist orientation that they’ve been faced with.″

Meanwhile, a tip that human remains might be buried at a Virginia farm used by the Finders prompted a court-ordered dig Tuesday, but police said no bodies were found.

Charles Vaughan, a spokesman for the Virginia state police, said the Madison County farm was owned by Marion D. Pettie, a retired Air Force master sergeant reputed to be the leader of the Finders.

″I don’t think anything’s turned up,″ Vaughan said today. ″It’s probably pretty well over. We don’t have anything real active to investigate. It’s just an ongoing thing right now.″

An affidavit filed in Madison County Circuit Court by county Commonwealth Attorney Caroline Watts said a photo album confiscated at a Washington, D.C., house was among the evidence that prompted the search.

The album included a series of photos titled ″The execution of Henrietta and Igor,″ which showed three children and three robed men killing and mutilating goats. Among the photographs was one of a smiling boy holding a goat fetus, the affidavit said.

Finders spokesman R. Gardner Terrell said the goats were butchered as a learning experience for the children.

Pettie is not being sought by Virginia authorities, and Vaughan said the photographs showed no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

On Monday, District of Columbia police said an investigation begun last year into the Finders failed to substantiate allegations of child abuse. The police also said there was no evidence to support an anonymous tip that the group engaged in Satanic rituals.

Tallahassee police spokesman Scott Hunt on Tuesday asked Terrell to come forward and help identify the children, who are in temporary shelters.

″We need to contact the parents. We need to have face-to-face contact with these people,″ Hunt said.

The FBI on Monday contacted Terrell, who said he would have the parents call police, Hunt said. Two people did call Monday night and promised to call back Tuesday but did not, he said.

″These phone calls in the night ... just don’t benefit anybody,″ said Hunt, adding that Tallahassee police had reached an out-of-service telephone when they tried to contact Terrell.

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