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Former Commune Leader Convicted of Kidnapping, Rape

August 4, 1994 GMT

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) _ The leader of a religious commune faces a recommended 220-year prison sentence next month when he is punished for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a follower’s young daughter.

A Clay County jury recommended the sentence Wednesday for Nelson DeCloud, 53, after convicting him of kidnapping, rape, sodomy and felonious restraint. Sentencing was set for Sept. 30.

The defense offered no evidence at the trial, and DeCloud declined to testify. However, attorney Michael Gunter said he would appeal the verdicts.

A 24-year-old woman testified DeCloud attacked her at his commune for a dozen years, from about age 9 until she escaped in September 1992. She said she was brought to live with DeCloud and others when she was 6 and her mother joined the commune, then in Raytown. She said she was beaten after a failed attempt to run away in 1985.

Prosecutor Mike Reardon said the group members are fundamentalist Christians. He said followers frequently attended DeCloud’s trial, sometimes a dozen at a time.

Prosecutors said DeCloud and nearly 30 followers fled Missouri after the young woman escaped and charges were filed.

The group stayed for five months at the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries complex in Baton Rouge, La., before moving to a farm house outside San Angelo, Texas. DeCloud was arrested there in May 1993.

On Tuesday, Swaggart testified he and DeCloud met at a public prayer meeting. The evangelist said DeCloud told him he was innocent of the charges and that he advised DeCloud to get a lawyer and return to Kansas City to face trial.