Yarber's ex-followers testify

The Journal Times / Racine Wisconsin/March 16, 1990
By Gary Metro

KENOSHA - Larry Yarber says he speaks or God and the members of his alleged religious cult in Caledonia about women as inferiors, surrendered money, beat children and break family relationships.

That was the testimony Thursday from Yarber's ex-followers and Rick A. Ross, a Phoenix, Ariz., man who said he had earned his living since 1986 by "deprogramming" members of cults and destructive religious groups.

The followers and Ross testified in a Kenosha custody trial between Yarber's wife, Shirley, of 4120 51st Ave., in Somers, and her former husband, Wayne Pierce of Lake Geneva.

Pierce is trying to get custody of his three children in a case continuing toady before Kenosha County Judge Robert Baker.

Ross spent an hour describing his nationwide experiences with cults and said studies indicated Yarber was a very dangerous person.

Yarber's group at 3313 Packer Drive in Caledonia could be threatening, according to Ross, because "every day is predicted on the attitudes, the mood swings, of just one man. If he is angry, they are angry…he's a very volatile and moody personality."

Ross said he deprogrammed Yarber followers, including a 16-year-old boy who had been living at the Packer address, known as "the big house."

"He almost exploded the day I was out there. I wonder how that will impact on the group in the future," Ross said.

"They have a very, very difficult time separating Larry Yarber from God," Ross said. "It's typical of cults, There isn't a month that goes by where I don't meet another prophet."

Ross said that Yarber, a former Racine karate teacher and Horlick High School student, was reluctant to admit his role in the group, but during an interview finally said; "Yes, I am a prophet."

Ross said women were considered "lesser creatures," like "cattle," by the male-dominated group.

Ross said that during his deprogramming work with Darlene Woiteshek, and her 16-year-old son, Kevin, he learned that the mother had sold her home and gave Yarber the profit of about $16,000.

Yarber also was accused of taking the family home away from his mother, Ruby, of Racine.

Ruby Yarber testified that she signed the house over to her son because he promised to make the payments that would let her live in the house. But Yarber, 43, later sold the house, according to Ruby Yarber, who said she then had to move.

Kevin Woiteshek testified that his mother and other followers were used by Yarber, 43.

"Larry has been using them for their money," he said. "He says the money id from God, but it's their money."

Kevin Woiteshek testified that he saw Yarber beat Wayne Pierce's son during 1987.

"I don't know the difference between a beating and a spanking. They seem the same," Kevin Woiteshek said.

Michelle Matchopatow of Racine said she lived for several years in the "big house." Matchopatow, 18, said she left the group during 1989 and had always been frightened of Yarber.

She said he kissed her once when she was 15.

"I felt kind of weird, and he told me that I didn't kiss like a little girl," she said.

Yarber also took an interest in her when she was 17 and developed a rash on her buttocks, according to Matchopatow.

"He insisted on putting on the ointment himself," she said.

Matchopatow also said Yarber promised to take her out to dinner and for a drive in his car when she was 18.

Matchopatow said that while she lived in at Packer Drive, her mother lived in another apartment. She also said her mother had left her behind to go on "a vacation" that lasted months.

Matchopatow said Shirley Yarber recently told her to stay away from the house and she suspected it was because of her courtroom testimony. She testified that she hadn't seen much of her mother and younger brothers.

Shirley Yarber's brother, Edward Carlson of Kenosha, said he was trying to help her children. They've been left alone at times, he said, adding that Shirley Yarber explained the children had been under God's care.

Carlson said he still loved his sister very much, and explained that she broke away from the family after meeting Yarber. He said his sister had seldom visited and avoided their mother'' 1989 funeral.

Carlson said Shirley Yarber once told her dying mother that she was being punished for a lack of faith, and asked her mother to "accept" Jesus in the hours before her death.

Shirley Yarber got angry when her mother asked her to stop. She left the family's home and rejected their pleas that she return, Carlson said.

"She said she couldn't come to the funeral because my father wouldn't ask her to come," Carlson said. "She said he was too prideful."


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