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Winrod property, church to be sold to pay court award • Saturday March 1, 2003

AP, Feb. 28, 2003

GAINESVILLE, Mo. (AP) — The Rev. Gordon Winrod’s church and Ozarks farm will be sold in March to pay a $26 million jury award for abducting his grandchildren and indoctrinating them in his anti-Semitic beliefs.

Jurors returned the award last May in a civil lawsuit accusing Winrod of using mind-altering techniques, such as keeping the children in isolation and whipping them, to meld the children’s attitudes. His son Stephen and daughter Carol, along with Our Savior’s Church, also were defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by Joel Leppert, his brother Tim Leppert and two of Tim Leppert’s abducted children — Nathan Leppert, now 21, and Erika Leppert, now 19.

Between 1994 and 1996, eight Leppert children were taken from their fathers’ homes in Dickey, N.D. Erika and Nathan eventually left their grandfather’s property. But the men didn’t see the other six children again until after authorities raided Winrod’s farm near Gainesville in May 2000.

It has been difficult to determine how much the Winrods are worth because the family doesn’t believe in banks, authorities said. Gordon Winrod indicated in court, however, that the church building alone was worth about $50,000.

The church sits atop a hill on a 400-acre farm that also includes the three-story family home, a cemetery, a saw mill, an airport hanger with small planes, as well as 10 head of cattle and a horse.

David Pointer, attorney for the Lepperts, has received court approval to sell the church, house and farm at 11 a.m. on March 31 on the steps of the Ozark County Courthouse.

Some personal property — including animals and farm equipment — will be sold at 2 p.m. at the sheriff’s department. It does not include the printing press used to create and distribute Winrod’s various newsletters. It has not yet been located, authorities said.

Winrod said during his trial that it would be a sin against God to take away his farm and the church building, where he served as pastor for several decades and preached hatred of Jews and government before he went to prison in 2001.

Winrod was notified of the sale at Jefferson City Correctional Center, where he is serving a 30-year sentence for kidnapping six of the Leppert children.

It’s difficult to determine how much the property will bring, Pointer’s legal associate said.

The money will be used to pay nearly $300,000 in doctor and hospital bills.

Joel’s daughter, Stephanie, and Tim’s daughter, Donna, were subjected to cult indoctrination. They spent months undergoing psychiatric treatment at North Dakota State Hospital.

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