More arrested in cult case
Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards said Friday that members of a Ponchatoula church cult accused of sexually abusing children and animals told detectives they carried out the practices for years as part of a devil-worshipping ritual involving cat blood.
“This is hard to talk about and harder to believe, but some of the suspects have told us their intention in all of this was devil worshipping,” Edwards said.
Investigators arrested four more people on Thursday who are allegedly implicated in the child and animal sex ring, one of them a woman who is married to the already arrested minister of the church.
Thursday’s four arrests brought to eight the number of people arrested so far after a six-week investigation into a Hosanna Church splinter group.
Edwards said earlier in the week that the people involved in the cult reportedly had sex with children and animals from 1999 until the church disbanded in 2003.
The investigation by the Livingston and Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s offices, the FBI and the Ponchatoula Police Department is continuing, he said.
Edwards said Friday there might be as many as 25 possible victims, and that he knows of at least one more suspect in the case to be arrested and booked with aggravated rape. He identified her only as a woman who is living out of state.
Edwards said the victims in the case range from toddlers to teenagers and some of the victims are dogs and cats.
“We know of one dog. That was a pet and the dog is dead now,” Edwards said. The sheriff said one of the suspects had sex with that dog, and that blood from a cat was used in the cult’s rituals. The dog and cat victims apparently were pets belonging to members of the church’s congregation, he added.
The sheriff said that there may be more arrests ahead.
“We feel like we have the core group, but I can’t say there won’t be more arrests,” Edwards said.
The Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office, Edwards said, has been receiving calls every hour from people who either know the suspects involved or who knew that something strange was going on.
“It’s mind-boggling to us that nobody came forward before this,” Edwards said, “that it wasn’t somehow common knowledge in Ponchatoula.”
Robbin D. Lamonica, 45, 25735 Oak Alley Drive, Holden, was booked Thursday night on one count of aggravated rape.
The male victim in the case told Livingston Parish deputies that he had been having sex with Robbin Lamonica from the time he was 4 years of age until he was 13, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Detective Stan Carpenter said Friday.
Robbin Lamonica’s husband, Louis Lamonica, 45, was arrested Monday and booked with aggravated rape and one count of crimes against nature. Louis Lamonica, the former minister of the Hosanna Church, confessed to Livingston Parish deputies that he had sex with children and animals, investigators said. Louis Lamonica is the first of the eight to be arrested.
Also arrested Thursday is Nicole Bernard, 36 of Columbus, Ohio. FBI agents arrested Nicole Bernard in Ohio on a warrant from the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, spokeswoman Laura Covington of the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
Nicole Bernard was booked with aggravated rape of a juvenile under the age of 13, Covington said.
Nicole Bernard is the former wife of another suspect, Austin Bernard III, 36, Southwest Railroad Avenue, Hammond. Austin Bernard III was arrested Wednesday and booked with aggravated rape after he confessed to having sex with a child under 13, Covington said.
Paul Fontenot, 21, 550 West Pine St., Apt. 29, was arrested Thursday and booked by Tangipahoa deputies with aggravated rape of a juvenile under the age of 13.
Covington said that Fontenot confessed to deputies that he had sex with a juvenile and admitted to having knowledge of the incidents at Hosanna Church.
Lois Ann Mowbray, 54, 39133 Keaghey Road, Ponchatoula, is the fourth suspect arrested Thursday.
Tangipahoa deputies booked Mowbray with obstruction of justice, failure to report a felony and accessory after the fact to aggravated rape, Covington said.
Investigators searched Mowbray’s home Thursday night, seizing photo albums, computers and other items, Covington said.
Two earlier arrests in the unfolding investigation are those of Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Blair Lebat, 24, Lumino Lane, Hammond. Lebat was booked with aggravated rape and malfeasance in office. The Sheriff’s Office fired Labat on Tuesday, the same day he was arrested in the cult investigation.
Tangipahoa deputies booked Allen R. Pierson, 46, 2575 Southwest Railroad Avenue, Hammond, on Wednesday night with one count of aggravated rape. Pierson is accused of raping a girl under the age of 11, the Sheriff’s Office said.
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