Yarber loses kids

Judge calls religious leader 'destructive'

The Journal Times/June 12, 1990
By Gary Metro

KENOSHA - Larry Yarber's religious teachings and brainwashed followers endanger children, according to a judge who stripped the custody of Yarber's stepchildren away from their natural mother.

Kenosha County Judge Robert Baker ordered the three children of Yarber's wife, Shirley Yarber, be turned over to their father, Wayne Pierce.

In a 14-page decision, Baker sharply criticized Yarber and his followers, who maintain an unorthodox religious community based at 3313 Packer Dive in Caledonia.

Yarber, who calls himself a prophet of God, has described the religious community as a non-traditional form of Christianity.

Baker sided with Yarber's critics, and called his following a destructive religious cult.

Baker attacked the practices, teachings and environment shared by people calling themselves "The Family," and their commune-like Packer Drive apartment building - dubbed the "Big House" by Yarber and his followers.

"The court does not want the children subjected to 'The Family' at the 'Big House' until each one reaches their majority," Baker said in his decision.

"The teachings, attitude and environment there is not conductive to the proper upbringing of children in the United States and is destructive to their young minds and to their morals," he said.

Baker granted Shirley Yarber visitation privileges with her children she had while married from 1976 to 1986 to Pierce - a disenchanted former follower of Yarber.

But Baker ordered the children be kept away from Yarber and any of his followers.

Baker detailed many reasons for changing the living conditions for Justin, 13; Jasmine, 11; and Crystall Pierce, 9.

The reasons cited by Baker surfaced during an emotional, five-day custody trail during March and April.

Physical punishment of children is espoused and practiced, family relationships are strained and broken, women and children are held in low esteem and group members financially support Yarber from their earnings, according to Baker.

He also criticized Yarber's group for its practice of leaving children unsupervised, failing to emphasize the value of schooling, and for its custom of praying over the sick and injured before seeking medical attention.

Baker frequently attacked Yarber, a drop-out from Horlick High School and the former head of a karate school in Racine.

"The court will find that 'The Family' a religious organization, housed at the 'Big House,' is really a destructive religious cult. The members therein are brainwashed and under the manipulation and influence of the cult's leader, Larry Yarber," Baker said.

The judge questioned Yarber as a proper role model for children because Yarber hasn't filed a tax return since 1981, has no gainful employment, can't account for money from the sale of his mother's house and "the fact that he swindled thousands of dollars from (former follower Darelene) Woiteshek."

Baker said Yarber gets all of his money, and pays his expenses with, contributions kept in a basket in the Packer Drive apartment of Tim Fox, a teacher at Gilmore Middle School in Racine.

"How long will the basket provide funds for this family? What security do the Pierce children have under this living arrangement? When will the house of cards known as the 'Big House' crumble?" Baker said.

In his custody decision, Baker ordered the children be turned over to Pierce immediately. Pierce recently moved from Geneva to Kenosha.

Baker ordered that the children's court-appointed attorney, social workers and Kenosha police be prepared to assist in the custody transfer.

The children left their mother's home at 4120 51st Ave. in the Kenosha County town of Somers on Friday, according to Kenosha attorney Anthony Milisauskas.

Milisauskas, the children's court-appointed attorney, said there were no problems with the transfer of custody.

The decision was made public Monday.

A divorce action between Larry and Shirley Yarber remained pending Monday in the Kenosha County Courthouse. Although the petition was filed May 1, there have been no further proceedings.

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