This case is all the more apropos in that I just finished reading Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer’s book about the murder of Brenda and Erica Lafferty by Dan and Ron Lafferty, two members of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Several times throughout the book, interviewees who had once lived in the FLDS haven of Colorado City, Arizona revealed that the town had a rampant, unspoken problem with child sexual abuse.
Fast forward to present day Palmer, Alaska, where a fundamentalist of a slightly different stripe pleaded no contest this week to sexually abusing one of his 15 children. Robert Hale, a.k.a. “Papa Pilgrim”, made waves in Alaska by bucking some sort of federal land act. (Snore.) More important for this blog is Hale’s deep past and his awful present. Hale had eloped with the daughter of John B. Connally, future governor of Texas; his wife eventually shot herself in the face. The forlorn Hale became hippie, and lived on a commune on land owned by Jack Nicholson. He and his wife eventually became born-again Christians of a very fundamentalist strain.
Apparently, though, the Lord and a passel of a dozen-plus wasn’t enough for Papa Pilgrim. He was accused in 2005 of molesting one of his daughters, and fled. Immediately after this, some idiots declared that these charges were concocted as payback for standing up to the feds. Sadly, no. His wife and all of his kids were poised to testify against him. He didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in h – e – double hockey-sticks. Papa now faces up to 14 years in jail for his crime.
Kudos to the hale family for standing by the truth and by their child, rather than standing by their patriarch. I’m curious, though: how will their lives and beliefs change in the wake of this sickening act? From other reports, it appears that Hale had a long history of this shit, and that the family remained unaware of it until the April 12005 incident. Some of Hale’s elder sons have gone around to their neighbors and apologized for the trouble their family inadvertently caused. How tragic that 16 other people have to deal with the trauma this man unleashed upon them.