Robert Hale presented himself as a pious, Scripture-thumbing patriarch who just wanted to raise his 15 children far from the sin and temptations of the modern world. He was revealed in the end as a manipulative tyrant who kept his family illiterate and twisted his Bible teaching to justify torture and the violent sexual abuse of his oldest daughter.
Robert “Bobby” Hale, the Scripture-quoting “Papa Pilgrim” who used the Bible to pound subservience into his 15 children, went before a judge in Alaska last month, looking old and frail beyond his 66 years as he learned his punishment — 14 years behind bars — for sexually assaulting one of his daughters.
For three hours Tuesday, Robert Hale blamed his wife and family for his troubles, denied ever assaulting his children, and said he only “gave corrections” out of biblical duty and a father’s love. Then the judge cut him off, called him a liar, and sent him to prison on a 14-year sentence for rape, coercion and incest.
For four harrowing hours, Hale’s wife and 14 of his 15 children spoke to the court of life inside what they now say was a “cult.” They said their father kept them isolated, ignorant and under his control.
The Pilgrim family’s life in the place they called “Hillbilly Heaven” ended in September 2005, when a Palmer grand jury handed up 30 felony charges of rape, assault and incest against Robert Hale involving one of his daughters. Hale, 65, the son of a famous FBI agent, who grew up in a country club lifestyle in Texas before disappearing into a vagabond life of the 1960s, was arrested outside Eagle River after 12 days on the run.
Robert Hale, the McCarthy-area patriarch known as Papa Pilgrim, was taken into custody in Eagle River around 1 p.m. Wednesday after a manhunt of nearly two weeks, Alaska State Troopers said. He was wanted on charges of raping and assaulting one of his daughters.
Robert Allan Hale, the McCarthy-area homesteading patriarch who calls himself Papa Pilgrim, has been indicted by a Palmer grand jury on 30 felony charges including sexual assault, kidnapping and incest.
The Pilgrims are used to making a strong first impression: the 15 children raised on horseback bearing biblical names, such as Bethlehem and Moses, with their flowing hair, hand-me-down clothes and home-tooled leather hats, fanning out in wings beside their parents and listening attentively as Papa speaks.