May 26, 2005

Police: Witnesses describe child sex abuse, blood rituals at church

Beacon Journal

Associated Press

PONCHATOULA, La. - Witnesses told police that people dressed in black clothing stood inside pentagrams and performed blood rituals involving the sexual abuse of children and animals at a now-closed church.

A woman whose phone call to police started the investigation was arrested last week in suburban Columbus, Ohio, on a charge that she raped her daughter. Authorities left with Nicole Bernard from Columbus on Wednesday for Louisiana after she gave up her right to a hearing on whether she should be extradited.

Police searched a storage unit in Columbus after Bernard told them it contained evidence. Officers took mattresses, videos and nine garbage bags full of costumes from the storage facility, according to a search warrant.

A message seeking comment was left for Bernard's attorney in Columbus, Bob Bernard.

Eight other people, including the church's pastor and an ex-sheriff's deputy, have been arrested in connection with the Hosanna Church in Ponchatoula, a once-bustling house of worship that was reduced to a handful of members in recent years before closing in 2003. A dozen or more additional people could be involved, authorities said.

Posted by kshaw at May 26, 2005 07:46 AM