Leader of Supremacy Church Arrested

The Associated Press/May 19, 2000
By Doug Johnson

Gainesville, Mo. -- The leader of a white-supremacist religious sect has been charged with abducting six of his grandchildren from North Dakota several years ago and hiding them at his Missouri farmhouse.

Since the pastor was arrested Wednesday, the children, ages 9 through 16, have refused to leave the farmhouse, engaging in a standoff with authorities on the property. Negotiations entered a third day today.

"None of our officers have been in the house. Our approach is not to push this," Missouri Highway Patrol spokesman Lou Wehmer said. "We just want to get them back home in the least destructive means."

Sheriff Steve Bartlett said the children may be armed.

"We have no plans to rush in there," he said. "We are taking our time with this so that everyone makes it out safely."

John Schneider, the U.S. attorney in North Dakota, said his office and the FBI have suspected for some time that the children were being held somewhere in Missouri. But it wasn't until about three months ago that "we had the first real indication" of their whereabouts, he said Thursday.

The farmhouse is on a 300-acre ranch belonging to the Rev. Gordon Winrod, 73, pastor of Our Savior's Church in Gainesville, in southwestern Missouri.

Authorities have linked the church to the Christian Identity movement, which considers white Christians superior to nonwhites and Jews. They said Winrod has sent out thousands of newsletters around the country each year, often calling for the killing of Jews.

Winrod, his son Steven Winrod, 33, and his daughter Carol Winrod, 27, were arrested Wednesday, charged with six counts of child abduction and held in the county jail on $500,000 bail apiece. Authorities did not know whether the Winrods had an attorney who could comment.

They are accused of kidnapping the children from the youngsters' fathers - Winrod's former sons-in-law - in North Dakota and hiding them on the Missouri farm. The children were all allegedly kidnapped in 1994 and 1995 after the fathers were awarded sole custody.

Two of Winrod's other grandchildren were also abducted; they were recently returned to their homes in North Dakota, authorities said.

The Ozarks region in southwestern Missouri has become a hotbed for the Christian Identity movement. Of the 102 Christian Identity affiliates operating in 35 states nationwide, 14 are based in Missouri and five in Illinois, officials say.

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