("Mainichi Shimbun", February 7, 2000)
MIYAZAKI - Police, investigating a commune on suspicion that members of the Kaeda-juku group have illegally abandoned the mummified bodies of two children, searched its facility over the weekend and examined how the bodies were kept.
During the search at the Kaeda-juku facility on Saturday, Junichiro Higashi, 55, head of the commune, other group members and the father of one of the mummified children were on hand.
Investigators apparently asked them to explain how the father's son received treatment on the second floor of the house in Miyazaki. Members of the group say they conducted a "ritual of resurrection" at the facility after the boy died.
by Jay Reeves (Associated Press, February 4, 2000)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A state investigation of a sprawling west Alabama religious commune began with claims that children were beaten and forced to sleep outside in subfreezing weather, police said Friday.
The allegations already have resulted in the arrest of a group leader accused of using a piece of lumber to beat a boy at the Sumter County commune known as Holyland.
The review, which began last month, is continuing.
Five children have died in fires at Holyland, the heart of a multimillion-dollar business, and opponents for years have accused founder Luke Edwards of mistreating the poor blacks who live there.
Edwards denies any wrongdoing. Critics both black and white are jealous that black people can run such a successful operation, Edwards, who is black, has said.
Scores of people live at Holyland, an isolated complex of plain wooden buildings, mobile homes and old vehicles. Residents support the enterprise by working in Holyland-related businesses and traveling the nation begging for donations.
State regulators until now have largely ignored the commune, saying they lack jurisdiction because it is tied to a church pastored by Edwards in Meridian, Miss.
The Alabama Department of Human Resources confirmed Thursday it was investigating Holyland along with law enforcement, but a department spokesman declined to elaborate.
Sumter County Deputy Howard Rhodes said the state review began after a Holyland resident contacted police last month complaining that her children had been beaten.
Albert Roberts, described as a deacon at Holyland, was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly hitting the woman's 13-year-old son with a board as two other youths held him, Rhodes said Friday. The youth was struck after trying to stop his little brother from being hit by the man, Rhodes said. Roberts' trial is set for Wednesday.
Rhodes said the assault charge led to the discovery of photographs that showed two boys about 6 years of age sleeping outside under a building on a night when the temperature was supposedly in the 20s.
Children at the Holyland are separated from their parents, who live elsewhere in motel-style rooms.
A 1998 blaze killed four children in a dorm for girls and babies. The fire was ruled an accident, as was a November blaze that gutted a dormitory for boys. Another accidental fire broke out in 1976, when a 2-year-old died in a fire at a mobile home owned by Edwards.
A woman who answered the phone Friday at the Holyland office refused to comment. Holyland attorney Drayton Pruitt did not return a telephone call, and a spokesman for the organization, Jerry Brown of Eutaw, also did not return a call.
Watching millennial and apocalyptic cults in the year 2000 - Index Page
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