Harold Copus on the Case

Harold Copus on the Case
Harold Copus drives down a lonely road in Arkansas. "I'm about to meet a lady who has information, who hopefully can help us find the children and where the dad's at, so we can help reunite the children with their mother," he says.


The private investigator enters the house of Mary Coker, who is an Alamo church observer, and sits at her kitchen table. "What do you know about that church? Do you know anything about these children, or children in general, there?" Harold asks.


"Tony Alamo, it's his cult. I know they keep to themselves, they're very secretive, they guard the compound," Mary replies. "The children who are in there, they have no education, they have no identity. He claims to be a prophet."


"What are the police saying about all of this?" Harold probes.


"The same thing that the state, and FBI and everybody else say: They have to have evidence before they go in there."


"Are they carrying weapons?"


"They have carried weapons," Mary says.

Mary offers to show Harold the compound. "I've got two years invested in trying to get something done about these kids," she says. As they ride through town, she explains what they will encounter as they try to gain entrance. "If the security guard is where he normally is, we'll be identified. They'll start contacting the other guards, and they'll know that we're here. We're passing in front of the main church. This street is the street that Tony Alamo lives on."


Harold passes a house with a black SUV parked in front. "This is Tony's house?" he asks.




"Mary has told us that there's a house that the Alamo Ministries is renovating. [Don] Davis is an employee-type who works on houses. We're going to go down here. May be our guy. I don't know," Harold reports. When he returns from the house, he reflects on his experience. "I talked to two workers in there. One guy told me that the house belonged to Don Davis, that Don was not there right now, that he was out of town. We could be sitting on the house where these kids are coming to. We may have hit gold here."

Dr. Phil asks Hannah if her father, Don, allows her to speak to her siblings. 


"He has let me talk to them," she replies. "He tells them what to tell me on the phone, because I can hear him in the background. They just tell me that they love me, and that they want me to come back and be with them and that they're really happy. That's all they're allowed to say on the phone."


"What was the worst thing for you while you were there?" Dr. Phil inquires


"The worst thing for me was the way they punished the children. It was fasting " going without food for weeks at a time " and only giving you water. They would hit you with boards, and sometimes switches, like, branches off the tree," Hannah replies.


"Who is ‘they'?"


"Usually your parents do it."


"Would this be your dad?"


"Yeah, and my stepmom."


"Tell me about this starving, or fasting, as you call it. You say you've actually passed out from it."


"I got in trouble for not vacuuming the hallway, and my stepmom told me I had to go on a two-week fast. She would not allow me to eat or drink anything but water," Hannah recalls. "I think it was going on to the second week, and I was playing with my friends outside. I passed out and fell to the ground. They came and picked me up, and they called my dad. My dad came to see me, if I was all right, and they told him it was from sun exhaustion, and I know it wasn't. I couldn't even move sometimes, because I was so weak."

Anna and Hannah sit in front of a computer. "I just received some pictures in an e-mail. I'm going to check it out and see if any of these might be my kids," Anna says. She stares at the picture of a little boy in a red shirt. "That's not David."


"Are you sure?" Hannah asks.


"Yes, I'm sure. I know what my kids look like. That's not my son."


Anna receives more e-mailed images the next day. "That's my son. That's my son, Jacob, right there," she exclaims with a relieved smile. "You can't see his face, but that is definitely Jacob." She examines another image. "This one young man with the hat on could possibly be my son, Jasper, because of the cheeks and the roundness of the face. I'm excited, but I feel scared. I'm just so close, but I'm just afraid something will go wrong."

"You would feel unsafe going inside the compound to get them?" Dr. Phil asks Anna.


"Definitely," she replies


Dr. Phil confers with Harold Copus. "The police have told you that these people are heavily armed and dangerous?"


"They certainly are," he replies. "We have a problem with this group."


Dr. Phil turns back to Anna. "I know you have children at home now who can be stressful, can be difficult. You're getting ready to add four more back to that situation. How do you handle and discipline the kids you have now? Because of what you've been exposed to and learned, do you go too far?"


"No, I think I'm too lenient. I have a really hard time with disciplining my kids now. A lot of times, if I have problems with the littlest one, I go to my grandmother and ask her for help," Anna answers.


"Do you use corporal punishment with these kids?" Dr. Phil asks Anna.


"No, sir."


"You don't hit them?" 


"No. I never spank them."


Dr. Phil turns to Hannah. "Do you agree with that?" he asks.


"Yes," she replies. Then she clarifies, "I agree that my mom doesn't hit us and that she's a good mom."

"Help me out here because I'm trying to help this whole family. Are you telling me that because it's what you truly believe, or are you telling me that because you've got to go home with Mom when this is all over with?"


"That is truly what I believe," Hannah says.

Once Hannah leaves the stage, Dr. Phil drills down on Anna. "As I sit here and I look at your daughter " you've got to understand I've been doing this a long time " she looks to me to be terrified of you. When I asked her that question, she would not look at me. She had a difficult time answering," he observes. "You cannot change what you don't acknowledge. Anna, if you have a problem in this way, tell me and I'll help you with it. I'm not going to say you don't deserve these children. I'm not going to stop helping you. But I'm trying to work both ends of the equation here. I need to know that, having been through what you've been through, you're able to handle that."


"Yes, and I don't know why you find that so hard to believe," she replies.


"Because of what you've been through, because of what you've been exposed to."


"My children were never beaten when I was there. [My ex-husband] never put his hands on my kids," she says.


"I'm involved in this for the children, so I have to ask hard questions of everybody," Dr. Phil explains.