Request to reopen Yarber case denied

Kenosha news/May 11, 1990
By Arlene Jensen

Judge Robert Baker refused Thursday to reopen testimony in a child custody case but took judicial notice of the pending divorce of alleged religious cult leader, Larry Yarber, and his wife Shirley.

The Somers couple filed for divorce after testifying last month that they would do so if it was necessary for Mrs. Yarber to retain custody of her three children from a previous marriage.

The children's father, Wayne Pierce, a one-time follower of Yarber, a 43-year-old self-styled prophet of God, is contesting his former wife's custody of the children. Pierce contends the youngsters, ages 9 to 12, are being harmed by the influence of Yarber and his religious "family," based in a commune-like Racine County apartment building.

Katherine Lingle, Mrs. Yarber's attorney, at Thursday's motion hearing, criticized press coverage of the case as "biased and spectacular."

Earlier testimony by Pierce and other former "family" members alleged Yarber does not work but lives lavishly off the donations of his followers. Yarber, who also testified, denied their allegations that he undermines parent-children ties, condones child beating and has taken sexual advantage of the females in his religious group.

Lingle asked that the testimony be reopened after the couple filed for divorce and Yarber moved out of their home at 4120 51st Ave., April 27. Mrs. Yarber also says she has disassociated herself from Yarber's "family."

Thomas Anderson, Pierce's attorney, argued that the divorce action and the motion were merely an attempt to "bargain with the court" on the custody issue.

Baker did grant Lingle's motion that he talk with the children before reaching his decision. Anthony Milisauskas, appointed to represent the children's interests, will be present during the conference.

The children accompanied their mother to court but Baker had them wait in his chambers during the hearing.

It was Milisauskas' earlier recommendation to Baker that the children's custody be shifted to Pierce that prompted Lingle's attempt to reopen the hearing, Anderson charge. Milisauskas, in that report, described Yarber as " a false Prophet" whose influence was harmful to his step-children.

Baker rejected Lingle's contention that his decision might be affected by press coverage.

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