Folsom couple’s sex trial begins
Dec. 2, 2003
Mareva Brown, Bee Staff Writer
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday December 3, 2003
A self-proclaimed prophet is accused of molesting his kids in a ‘religious’ ritual.
The trial of a self-proclaimed prophet from Folsom accused of molesting his children in rituals couched in religious doctrine began Monday with testimony so explicit it drew a groan from one juror.
Allen Rex Harrod, 56, faces a potential life term if convicted of the 32 counts of child molestation involving his sons, a daughter and the teenage daughter of a friend entrusted to him for “religious training.”
Prosecutor Chris Ore told jurors on Monday that Harrod was a “cult” leader, who forced his daughters to perform sexual acts in order to win favor and advance in the family hierarchy.
He said documents show that acts of molestation were outlined in interpretations of Scripture written by Harrod, and that his children and several wives were required to write journals of their sexual “offerings” to Harrod as patriarch.
In a brief opening statement to jurors, Harrod’s attorney Dani Williams asked jurors to carefully consider the facts and testimony.
“You’ve taken an oath to keep an open mind until you’ve heard all the evidence,” Williams said. “And we’re confident that if you look at the evidence closely, you will return a verdict of not guilty.”
Harrod and his second wife, Irene Hunt, were arrested Sept. 26, 2001, after Harrod’s eldest daughter — Hunt’s niece — went to Folsom police and said she had been molested and that she had witnessed abuse of her siblings.
The daughter, now 29 and the mother of two children, said she suspected that a second generation of children — Harrod’s and Hunt’s — also were victimized.
Hunt, 49, faces approximately 18 years in prison if convicted of the eight counts against her.
The eldest daughter was the trial’s first witness Monday. She gave a graphic description of a childhood she said was spent trying to avoid her father’s advances. She said her sexual abuse began when she was in first grade.
She and her mother and siblings fled Harrod’s home when the daughter was 11.
Her current name and the names of her siblings are not being disclosed because The Bee as a policy usually does not identify victims of sexual assault or suspected sexual assault.
Initially, Harrod and Hunt were charged with crimes of abusing this daughter, but a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year forced prosecutors to drop all charges related to acts before 1988, or 70 of 97 counts, which included many of those involving Harrod’s adult children.
Judge Roland L. Candee allowed the woman to testify Monday because of a law that allows testimony on such actions if they illustrate a pattern of behavior.
Describing herself as a fearful and obedient child in a strict home, the daughter said she was forbidden to enter the private religious temple her father constructed from a third bedroom.
“If I ever talked back to him, I got a spanking with a belt,” said the daughter. “And it wasn’t a little spanking. You’re naked on the bed and then you get a big spanking with a big, leather belt. This is what I feared.”
Prosecutor Ore told jurors that Harrod ordered his children to call him by a new, religious name, Isaac, and that another couple, his followers, assumed the names Joseph and Mary.
That couple, Michael and Juliette Labrecque, are in federal custody in Sacramento awaiting a January trial. So intertwined are the two families’ lives that officials are uncertain whether three of Juliette Labrecque’s nine children were fathered by Harrod or her husband.
When Harrod and Hunt were arrested, officials discovered several of the Labrecque’s daughters living with them. The eldest Labrecque girl, now 19, says Harrod is her husband and that her toddler daughter is Harrod’s.
Sources familiar with the case say the two eldest Labrecque daughters are religious wives of Harrod.
Harrod’s claims to be the leader of a Mormon sect has been a source of discomfort for local Mormon officials, who acknowledge that Harrod was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than a decade ago.
While Harrod has not been disciplined formally for his alleged acts, church records show Hunt was excommunicated from the church in 1984 for undisclosed reasons, according to a local church spokesman, Dennis Holland.
“Actively promoting bizarre teachings and lifestyle is far afield from the principles and doctrines of the church and is automatically grounds for excommunication,” he said. “(But) in cases such as this, the church waits until the criminal prosecution is completed and a verdict is rendered before proceeding with church discipline.”
The case against Harrod will hinge in part on the testimony of one of the Labrecque’s daughters, who has told investigators she was 14 when her parents first sent her to Harrod for “religious training.” Both she and Harrod’s own daughter told investigators they were required to participate in a three-part sexual ceremony in order to become a woman.
Other pivotal witnesses will be two brothers, sons of Hunt and Harrod, who were born about 16 months apart but were separated at age 7 and raised in separate households — one headed by Harrod and one by Labrecque. Each child claims he was sexually abused by his mother.
Throughout Monday’s testimony, the silver-haired, bearded and bespectacled Harrod sat silently, eyeing courtroom patrons and jurors. Hunt kept her eyes downcast.
“This case involves a cult,” Ore told jurors, glancing at the patriarch. “He started a cult that involved the molestation of children. And he justified that by old Mormon doctrine and old Jewish doctrine.”
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