Anna's Journey

Anna's Journey

"I was a member of the Tony Alamo church. Just one day out of the blue, my sister called me up and told me about this church that she was in and how her life had changed. She wanted me to come down there and visit," says Anna. "It seemed like a normal church. Everybody seemed really happy and friendly. It really can make a person think, ‘Hey, this is what I need right now.' Tony Alamo, he's their God. I absolutely adored Tony. I loved this man."

"To even meet him or talk to him, you felt like you were blessed by God to just see him," says Hannah, Anna's 16-year-old daughter. "That's how much everyone looks up to him."

But Anna was soon to discover how restrictive her new church was. "There were rules. You could not go anywhere by yourself. You had to have permission to go shopping, to go to services, to stay home. You're not allowed to have a magazine, you're not allowed to have a radio, a DVD player " any of those things that keep you in tune with what's going on outside of the church."

"We couldn't wear shorts or T-shirts. We couldn't wear nail polish, or any makeup or lip gloss, no jewelry at all," reports Anna's 15-year-old daughter, Katarah.

"Instead of getting punished, like, grounded like a normal kid, you would get taken off of eating for weeks at a time," Hannah remembers. "A lot of times, I was really weak, and I passed out one time when I was playing with the rest of the kids in the church."
"Tony has about 13 wives. He picked certain girls, and they'd come to his house and go swimming in his big pool," Anna says. "He takes to beautiful girls, special girls. He likes eyes and hair, certain things about them. He tells them, ‘I have a big bowl of candy bars beside my bed,' so all these girls just started going up there and staying with him. I thought, ‘If it's in God's Word, I agree with it, but I don't know how I feel about you taking girls.'"

After 12 years of being a member of the church, Anna decided to flee. "Tony Alamo had said that I was a threat to his church. I started asking myself, ‘Why is he the only one who can have more than one wife? Why is he so special that we're living in trailers, and he's got Olympic-sized pools?'" she recalls. Anna says she not only felt dominated by the church, but also by her husband, Don. "The more I questioned my husband about it, my husband would show up with a paddle. The last time, I thought to myself, that's it. I'm out of here. I grabbed my children, and we walked to this woman's house, and I asked her to please call a taxi. As I was leaving, this van pulls up with two of his members inside of it. They're yelling at me, and trying to grab me and pull me away. They're telling me, ‘What are you doing? Are you crazy? Your kids are going to go to hell. You're going to go to hell.' I turned around and looked at that sister, and I said, ‘You go to hell!' and I jumped in that taxi.

"About a year went by. My ex-husband called me, and he told me he was no longer a member. He came by the house and wanted to see the children. I trusted him," Anna continues. "Basically, he took the youngest ones with him and never returned. Don has Jasper, Olivia, Jacob and David. I'm living with Hannah, Katarah and Deanna. Don doesn't allow me to speak with the children."

Anna and her daughter, Hannah, join Dr. Phil. He addresses Anna. "You're not even able to speak to these four children, correct?" he asks.

 

"Correct," she replies.

 

"How did you escape?"

 

"It took a lot of strength. I just knew I had to. I knew if I didn't move quickly, I didn't know what would happen to me next," she replies.

 

"But what pushed you over the edge? You had been there for a good while," Dr. Phil points out.

 

"I just knew something was really wrong," she replies. "I felt like my life was in danger. I was afraid of my husband. I was afraid of Tony [Alamo]."

 

"You get out with seven of the children. You're running from [Don] and them, but then you have some dialogue with your now ex-husband in the ensuing time, and he's at the house. He comes to your house," Dr. Phil summarizes.

 

"Yes, correct," Anna responds.

Dr. Phil continues his summation of the situation."[Don] says, ‘I'm going to take four of the kids, and we're going to go buy a gift, and we'll be right back,'" he recounts.

 

"Yes," Anna replies.


Dr. Phil is puzzled. "Did anything go off in your mind that he might be taking off with those children?" he inquires.

 

"No, because it had been quite some time since I had spoken with him."

 

"He told you he was out of the church," Dr. Phil notes. "So he loads the kids, goes to the store and never comes back."

 

"That is correct."

 

"And you haven't seen those four children since," Dr. Phil muses. "What's it been like for you to not be able to see those children, to hold those children, to be with them?"

 

"It's been horrible because I blame myself for a lot of it," Anna answers. "I wanted to keep a very positive relationship with him so that my kids weren't affected. The divorce was hard enough for them."

 

"If you know where the compound is, and you know that your four children are there, why haven't you gone to get them?"

 

"I have tried," Anna replies. "I filed the instructions I was given by the officials to go down there and bring my divorce decree. So I went down there immediately. They said if I came to the property with a divorce decree, that they would go ahead and allow me to go get my kids, if they were there. When we went to go into the home and out the back door to confront whoever it was there who had the kids, she pulled my son away from me, and she shut the door. [The officer] said, ‘If you go on their property, it's considered trespassing, and I will have to arrest you.'"