Anti-Semitic Pastor Leaves Trial

The Associated Press/January 30, 2001
By Doug Johnson

Gainesville, Mo. -- Dismissing the case as a "Jewish fiasco," the leader of an anti-Semitic church refused to attend his kidnapping trial Tuesday as prosecutors accused him of hiding and brainwashing his own grandchildren.

The Rev. Gordon Winrod, 73, who chose to represent himself in court, refused to leave his cell and would not allow his public defender to participate.

He asked to be taken back to his cell Monday because he was angered by a judge's rejection of his motions.

"If you are not going to listen to my evidence, you can take me back to my cell and you can run this Jewish fiasco the way you want," said Winrod, also known for his hatred of nonwhites and the government.

Winrod, pastor of Our Savior's Church, faces up to 30 years in prison on charges he kidnapped six of his grandchildren from their fathers in North Dakota in the mid-1990s and hid them on his farm.

Following his arrest last May, his grandchildren, ages 9 to 16, barricaded themselves on the farm for four days until Winrod persuaded them to surrender.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Tom Cline said the children looked like "whipped puppies" when authorities took them from the farm after years of "brainwashing and indoctrination" into Winrod's church.

Jurors also heard taped telephone conversations between the children and their mothers, who were in a North Dakota jail on separate abduction charges. The North Dakota Department of Corrections taped the phone calls to find out where the children were.

As the trial began in earnest, Winrod's public defender took notes but did not present arguments or cross-examine witnesses. The children's fathers were expected to testify later Tuesday.

Winrod walked out on the trial Monday after Circuit Judge William Mauer rejected defense motions to have evidence entered into the record, including letters written by his grandchildren and a medical statement alleging they had been abused by their fathers.

The mothers of the grandchildren are Winrod's two daughters, both now divorced from their husbands and imprisoned in North Dakota in connection with the abductions.

A third daughter, Carol, 27, and son Stephen, 33, also face kidnapping charges in the case. Their trials are to be held separately.

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