Ex-Hosanna pastor: Confession forced
AMITE — Former Hosanna Church pastor Louis D. Lamonica told a Tangipahoa Parish jury Friday that he falsely confessed to child rape because he thought it would be the only way to get his wife and children back.
Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, is on trial in the 21st Judicial District Court on four counts of aggravated rape of his sons when they were age 11 or younger. Seven church members were indicted in 2005 on charges of molesting children. Lamonica is the second among them to go on trial.
Lamonica’s attorney, Michael Thiel, maintained in questioning his client Friday that Lamonica falsely confessed to child rape because he was being controlled by a woman who claimed to be a prophet of God.
Assistant District Attorney Don Wall asserted in his cross-examination of Lamonica that Lamonica allowed himself to be controlled out of fear that church members would go to the authorities with proof of his sex crimes.
While Thiel had his client on the stand Friday, Lamonica talked about his troubled marriage and his failed ministry at his late father’s church in Ponchatoula.
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Taking a break?
Lois Mowbray, the so-called prophet, took control of the church and began to control his wife and the remaining handful of congregants by 2003, Lamonica testified.
Mowbray, 56, formerly of Ponchatoula, had been arrested by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office in May 2005 as an accessory after the fact to rape and failure to report a felony. Mowbray was never charged by the District Attorney’s Office and was never brought before a Tangipahoa Parish grand jury.
After his wife forced him to move into the church in 2003, Lamonica testified, his wife told him to work for an electrical company owned by Mowbray and other church members for $10 a day or she would divorce him and take his sons away.
“I really don’t want a divorce,” Lamonica testified. “I really want to work this out.”
After working 10-hour days installing wiring, Lamonica then would work around the church doing chores, such as scrubbing doors and toilets with toothbrushes, he testified.
For a while, Lamonica said, he had to wear a dress and two rubber snakes representing his mother and aunt because they were “pharaohs,” Lamonica testified. Church members once shaved his head and called him “pharaoh” as well, he said.
“She convinced herself she was like Moses and Tangipahoa was coming out of Egypt,” Lamonica said, referring to the biblical story of Moses leading the Jews people out of slavery in Egypt. “Pharaoh was blocking the way.”
In addition to suffering humiliation, Lamonica often was beaten by other church members, he testified. Or, the other church members would pace around him while cursing him in the name of God, he said.
In 2003, Lamonica testified, he was told to make a written confession about every woman he had lusted after in his lifetime.
“I was told to write, so this is what I wrote,” Lamonica said. “I figured that was it.”
In 2004, Lamonica testified, he was approached again to write about raping his sons. By this time, the torture and sleep deprivation had stopped, but he was still not allowed to go home to his wife.
“The only way to get out of this thing is to keep writing,” Lamonica said. “I thought: ‘What’s it going to hurt? They’re going to burn it.’”
In May 2005, only days after Lamonica’s wife helped him get an apartment in Natalbany, church members began pressuring him to go to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and confess to taking part in a child-sex cult, Lamonica testified.
Lamonica said he was told to ask for a deal in exchange for information and that he would not be arrested.
“What it came down to was I wanted to go home,” Lamonica said. “My only avenue home was through Lois Mowbray. I had to do whatever she told me to do.”
On cross-examination, Wall had Lamonica repeat some of his previous explanations of why he confessed and pressed the defendant for reasons why he allowed others to force him to do things.
Wall asked Lamonica why he didn’t leave a church where members repeatedly accused him of stealing money and molesting his children.
“And you just took that?” Wall asked.
“Yes, I did, and we’re here today because of it,” Lamonica said.
Hosanna Church rites described as cultlike
AMITE — The Hosanna Church child-rape trial defendant is the former leader of a Christian cult with congregants who veered from mainstream charismatic teachings by focusing on prophetically inspired public confessions and by vomiting in order to cast out demons of sin, three defense witnesses testified Thursday.
Their testimony in the trial of Louis D. Lamonica offered insight into the decline of Hosanna Church from the spiritual center built by Lamonica’s father into a cult that witnesses said had lost touch with reality.
Lamonica’s attorney, Michael Thiel, has maintained that his client falsely confessed to child rape because he was being controlled by a woman claiming to have prophetic visions. The state’s case, presented by Assistant District Attorney Don Wall, includes accusations that children were molested as part of satanic cult rituals.
Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, faces four counts of aggravated rape of his two sons when they were age 11 or younger. He is the second of seven church members indicted in 2005 for their roles in an alleged child-sex ring to be tried in the 21st Judicial District Court.
Two young woman, Karen Bushey and Desiree’ Louque, testified Thursday that their membership in the Hosanna youth group was solely about worshipping God. They testified they never saw any satanic symbols or rituals at the church.
Even though they had been named as participants by some of the suspects and Lamonica’s sons, both women said they never had sex with Lamonica or other church members.
Instead, they described what they referred to as a Christian cult.
Once Lois Mowbray became Hosanna’s associate pastor, sermons ended and Sunday worship services varied from praising God for many hours to altar calls where Mowbray claimed God had told her of a sin that a congregant had to confess publicly, Bushey and Louque said.
“People would go up, start kneeling at the front praying,” Bushey, 24, of Tickfaw, testified. “The worship team would crowd around them and pray over them. This would make them start to throw up.”
Mowbray, 56, formerly of Ponchatoula, had been arrested by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office in May 2005 and booked with being an accessory after the fact to rape and failure to report a felony. She was never charged with the crimes by the District Attorney’s Office or a parish grand jury.
Toward the end of the church’s existence, strangers seeking to drop in on services were turned away at the doors, the women said. In fact, they, too, had no contact with others outside the church.
Bushey moved out of her parents’ home and into the residence of the youth pastor after her parents had an argument with Lamonica and told her to leave the church or get out of their home.
Six months later, Bushey said, she contacted her sister in order to visit her on her birthday. Before she knew it, Bushey said, she was dropped off at a park where her mother picked her up.
No one at the church talked to her again, she testified.
Louque’s break with the church came after she told her boyfriend, Christopher Labat, that she was tired of Labat’s practice of confessing every aspect of their personal relationship to Mowbray.
Labat, 27, of Hammond, is the former Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputy who faces child-rape charges in this case.
Six months later, Louque, 23, of Hammond, said she hung out with Labat for a couple of hours. The next day, Labat, after confessing his visit to Mowbray, arrived at her place of employment and pulled her aside, she testified.
Labat then cut off the head of a rubber snake and handed the head to her, Louque tearfully related.
“He told me it was me,” Louque said.
Experts testify on abuse
AMITE — After a young boy with mental problems confided in his therapist that his father, Louis D. Lamonica, did not abuse him, the boy’s disorders only grew worse, a therapist testified in 21st Judicial District Court Tuesday.
Lamonica, 49, is being tried on four counts of aggravated rape of both of his sons when the boys were 11 years of age or younger. The former Hosanna Church pastor is the second of seven members of the now-defunct Ponchatoula church indicted in 2005 for sexually abusing children.
Most of the witnesses presented by District Attorney Don Wall on Tuesday are people to whom the boys, in spring 2005, disclosed their alleged abuse: their regular psychiatrist, a forensic pediatrician, a therapist hired by the state for the younger boy’s treatment and a recorded statement made at the Child Advocacy Center in Livingston.
Both teens later recanted their abuse allegations on the witness stand at the previous trial of another church member. Lamonica’s attorney, Michael Thiel, has asserted that the boys initially made up tales of the abuse because they were coerced to do so by other Hosanna Church members.
The recantation began in late 2005 or early 2006 after the younger boy had been living with his paternal grandmother for many months, therapist Angela Mayfield testified.
Mayfield testified the younger boy told her that he had lied about the abuse because he was pressured to do so by another member of the church. The boy said he was recanting at that moment because he wanted his life to be normal again, Mayfield testified.
The son’s treatment at Mayfield’s clinic continued until September, but the symptoms of the boy’s mental disorders worsened after he recanted, Mayfield testified.
Elder son: Church taught sinful thoughts same as action
AMITE — The elder son of Louis D. Lamonica said on the witness stand Wednesday that his thoughts of being raped by his father and others are fuzzy because he made them up.
As they did in a previous trial, both of Lamonica’s sons recanted on the witness stand their previous allegations that they had been sexually abused by their father.
Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, on trial for the aggravated rape of his two sons, is a former pastor of the now-defunct Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula. Seven members of the Hosanna Church congregation were indicted in 2005 on charges of sexually abusing three children.
Lamonica is accused of four counts of aggravated rape of his sons while they were 11 or younger. They are now ages 22 and 18.
“The question is why would you say things that were so horrible if it wasn’t true,” defense attorney Michael Thiel asked the elder son. “I think that’s what everyone wants to know.”
The elder son had told authorities that his memories of the abuse are blurry, which he said means that his memories of the abuse aren’t real.
Instead, the memories were created because of suggestions made by his mother or another church member, Nicole Bernard. Ideas about how the abuse could occur came to him because he was told to write about specific aspects of the abuse by his mother, the elder son testified. Both boys wrote hundreds of pages detailing abuse by their father and other church members.
The elder son also said on the witness stand that he was taught at church that sinful thoughts are the same as doing the acts. Therefore, he was told that if he thought it, he should write it down because it probably happened.
“At my church, I was taught that if you thought about it, it carried on into the physical (world),” the elder son said.
“If I thought about killing someone, then there would be a dead body?” Wall asked.
“It can, but it doesn’t always happen like that,” the young man replied.