To help find Michelle's missing daughters, Dr. Phil put former FBI private investigator Harold Copus, who recently helped recover another missing girl, on the case. On the first day of his search, Harold pays a visit to Michelle and asks her to tell him the story.
"Mike was a member of the Old Order German Baptist Church," she says. "Once the German Baptists became aware that he had taken off with the girls, they told him he was no longer allowed at the church."
Harold asks Michelle for her best pictures of Mike. She tells him one is a mug shot from when her husband was arrested for gun possession. "He probably was hunting," she says. "They do believe in hunting."
Harold notes that members of Mike's fellowship are passive and non-violent, but that they have weapons. According to Michelle, Mike has an extensive gun collection, including a rifle that he made that shoots elephant bullets. She also says that Mike will go to extreme lengths to make his point and that he is anti-government.
Michelle imparts one final piece of information to Harold about her husband. "The last possible sighting was two or three weeks ago up around DeKalb, Illinois. They just saw someone who was fitting Mike's description with two young girls."
On the second day of his investigation, Harold visits Lt. Duffy of the Ford County Sheriff's Department. The lieutenant takes Harold out to where Michael Hari and his girls were living just prior to the abduction.
Harold walks the perimeter of a ramshackle hut. "What he did is apparently got some of his church buddies, and they donated bales of hay, and he took this mud or insulation and put it on the outside — and I assume it's on the inside too to hold down the dust and the mites and everything else — and this is where they lived. Does this have running water?" he asks the lieutenant.
"They had a hose running through it," Lt. Duffy says. Their tour also reveals an outhouse for a toilet and no electricity. Harold expresses shock at the crudeness of the outhouse.
Next, Harold's investigation brings him to Chief Decker of the Gibson City Police Department. He asks the chief about a controversial church group known as the Hutterites. According to the chief, Hutterite groups number around 265. They hold a conference call with Dave Chittick of the Canada Missing Children's Society. He says, "And there's at least one Hutterite colony in Minnesota that I'm interested in, the group that Michael Hari may have joined. It's a colony called the Elmendorf Colony, just outside of Mount Lake Minnesota. Peter Hoover is a fellow whom Michael considers a friend. He seems to have become the de facto leader of the Elmendorf Colony, and wherever there's trouble, you'll find Peter Hoover in the middle of it."
"I believe we have to follow through on the Minnesota lead now," says Harold.
He drives through a snowy Minnesota community and passes a sign that says "Elmendorf." He's looking for Peter Hoover.
"Peter Hoover's an elder in the community. He may be the key to where Mike and the girls are located," says Harold. "They raise turkeys in here, so I guess we're seeing houses where they raise their flock.
Peter greets Harold and the two members of the sheriff's department who have accompanied him.
Settling into a chair in a spartan room, Harold asks, "If Michael Hari were somewhere right now, where would he go that he would be accepted?"
"I am extremely positive he's not in a Hutterite colony," says Peter. "That's not even a question in my mind because if he would be anywhere with a Hutterite colony, he would be here, and he's not here, so ... " He shrugs.
"And he hasn't been here in the last year," Harold probes.
"No. He's only been here once," Peter replies. "The last I knew is that we heard that the social services were closing in, and that the mom was trying to curtail all rights for him to see the children or be with the children, and he actually called me and wondered what I would do in this particular situation. And he told me at that time that he is thinking of maybe taking them to somewhere else that she won't know where they're at, so that they can't take them from him. Although it may sound like a strange thing, I told him, 'Well, if that's what you have to
do, you'll have to do it.' That's actually what I told him, for as strange as that may sound."
Harold tells Peter, "Well, my jaw dropped."
"I can imagine that from your perspective all this would sound somewhat strange, but we would do it a million times. If we would feel that the law gets in the way of us following Christ, of course that's what we would do," Peter explains.
"Did I understand you to say it's OK not to pay attention to that judge?" Harold asks.
"What I would say is that of course we obey the law wherever it does not conflict with our obedience to God."
"What I would say is it's not up to me to make that decision, and it's not up to me to counsel them to hide or run," says Harold.
"Well, I'm not sure that I exactly told them in those terms," Peter says. "I didn't tell him to try to run away from the law; I just told him to do whatever he needs to do."
"Well, that's the same thing. That's just a play on words to me. No, you didn't counsel him to do that, but in essence you did the same thing."
"I implicated that's what might be necessary."
"Yeah, that's right. So in essence, that's what you did."
"That's possibly true," Peter concedes.
"The bottom line is, I guess, I can't count on you," Harold says, "and what I'm saying to you is we need your help. We need everyone as a community, whether it's in your church or someone else."
Peter says, "Well, I would look at it this way. If there's any possibility he might be around, I'd say we would be very happy to help with some type of mediation. I never actually heard what course he decided to take, and if I would know where he was, I would be able to tell you."
"Let me just ask you straight up," says Dr. Phil. "You know where Michael is, don't you?"
"I have a general idea how to contact him, but I don't know exactly where he is," Peter replies.
"You can find him if you want to find him, true?
"Well, I'm not sure if I can, but I could contact people who probably could," says Peter.
Dr. Phil introduces Peter to Michelle. "This is the mother of Mollie and Allene," he says. "She is in immense and intense pain and anguish at having her children ripped from her life and hidden from her. Is there anything that you want to say to her?"
"We would be very happy to see this thing come to some kind of a good and a peaceful conclusion," says Peter. "I was under the impression, and you can correct me if you like, that the girls felt that when they were back to your house for visitation that they were under considerable pressure, that they should not — like Mollie, since she was baptized a couple of years ago — that she felt she was under pressure to maybe not wear her brethren clothes and maybe put on jewelry and things of this nature, which she felt uncomfortable with. And the way I see it now is if we could come up with some alternatives now, and come up with some commitments, I wonder if maybe we couldn't put it all back together. That would be my desire."
Dr. Phil directs a question to Michelle. "Did you pressure these girls? Did you cut their hair, make them wear jewelry, cast aside their religious beliefs and values to live in a more mainstream fashion?"
"No, I did not," she replies. "When they came to visit me, I had clothes for them, I had jewelry. My mother would take them to the beauty shop to get their hair washed because we had a problem with lice one time, so she'd take them there to get their hair washed and cleaned up. She left them off and just basically said, 'Whatever they need.' The girls would sometimes come back and say, 'I got my hair cut,' and I'd say, 'Well, you need to be ready if your dad notices because, you know, I want him to know that it's your choice, not mine.'"
"What do you want for these girls at this point?" asks Dr. Phil.
"I want them to have the safety to make their own choice," she says, fighting back tears. "Mollie told me right before they disappeared, she said 'Mom, I need an out,' and I said, 'What do you need?' and she said, 'I need to know that I can say I've changed my mind, and I won't have to stay with my dad and see his anger.'"
"Of course. The number one commitment that I can personally make is I would like to do everything that I possibly can as a human being to try to get in touch with Mike and to try to present to him whatever we could come up with and to be a mediator, a peacemaker, to the best of my ability. That's one thing I would commit myself to doing. Now, on the part of Michelle, I understand very well what she's doing, how she's living and so on, and I also feel that she is going to have to guarantee that if these kids come out that she will let them live the way that they want to do it."
"Let me say, she doesn't have to guarantee anything," Dr. Phil says sternly. "These are her children, and she doesn't owe an explanation to his church, or to anyone else. Now, the truth and fact is that this is a woman of spiritual means, and that is absolutely where her heart is. But it is not the position of Michael or the church to require her to guarantee anything about what she's going to do. It just so happens that I think they're very much aligned. What I'm saying is I want Michael and the girls to come out, sit down with you, certainly with me, with you, Harold, to protect, whatever, and I consider that to be a safe platform to try to let reasoned minds figure out the best thing to happen here. Will you participate in that?"
"I will certainly participate," Peter says.