Tony Alamo was a notorious cult leader and evangelist who founded the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, a group that preached anti-Catholicism, homophobia, and polygamy. He was also a convicted child sex abuser who married and raped several underage girls he called his “wives”. He died in 2017 while serving a 175-year prison sentence. But what was the cause of his death and how did he end up behind bars?
Early Life and Ministry
Tony Alamo was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman in 1934 to a Jewish family in Missouri. He moved to Hollywood as a teenager to work in the entertainment industry, but soon became an evangelical street preacher who prophesied about the second coming of Christ. He married Susan Alamo in 1966, and the couple amassed a group of followers who called themselves “Jesus Freaks”. They established their headquarters in Arkansas, where they built a lavish mansion with a heart-shaped swimming pool, a basement recording studio, and dinner seating for more than 100 guests. They also designed and made sequined denim jackets for Hollywood stars, such as Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.
The Alamos claimed to have miraculous healing powers and attracted thousands of followers around the country. They also broadcasted their sermons on radio and television, spreading their message of anti-Catholicism, homophobia, and polygamy. They denounced the Pope as the Antichrist, called homosexuality an abomination, and advocated for men to have multiple wives.
Sexual Abuse and Legal Troubles
Tony Alamo’s dark side became evident after his wife Susan died of cancer in 1982. He kept her body on display for months, hoping that she would resurrect. He also began to marry and sexually abuse young girls from his congregation, some as young as nine years old. He held secret ceremonies at his compound to authorize his marriages to these girls, whom he considered to be his “wives”. He also beat boys who disobeyed him or tried to protect the girls.
Alamo’s crimes caught the attention of the authorities, who raided his compound in 1991 and found evidence of child abuse and tax evasion. Alamo fled the state and became a fugitive for two years, until he was arrested in Florida in 1994. He was sentenced to six years in prison for tax-related charges, but was released after four years.
In 2008, the FBI raided his compound again and rescued six girls who had been sexually abused by Alamo. He was arrested and charged with 10 counts of taking minors across state lines for sex. In 2009, he was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 175 years in prison. He appealed his conviction, but it was upheld by the courts.
Death and Legacy
Alamo died on May 2, 2017, at the age of 82, while in custody at a federal prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina. The specific details about his cause of death were not immediately known, though he reportedly suffered from health problems, including diabetes and a 2011 heart attack.
His death brought relief to some of his victims, who had suffered physical and psychological trauma from his abuse. Some of them had also filed civil lawsuits against him and his ministry, seeking compensation for their damages. Several of these lawsuits resulted in multi-million dollar judgments and settlements against Alamo and his empire.
However, his death did not end his influence completely. Some of his followers remained loyal to him and continued to operate his ministry under his name. They distributed his tracts and propaganda materials online and on the streets, claiming that he was innocent and persecuted for his faith. They also maintained his website, which featured his writings, audio recordings, and videos.
Tony Alamo was one of the most notorious cult leaders in American history. He used religion as a cover for his sexual abuse and exploitation of young girls. He died in prison without showing any remorse or repentance for his crimes. His cause of death may remain a mystery, but his legacy is clear: he was a predator who preyed on the vulnerable and deceived the faithful.