*The Washington Post*
Saturday February 7, 1987
*Officials Describe 'Cult Rituals' in Child Abuse Case Photos of Youngsters Seized At D.C. Warehouse, Probers Say

Authorities investigating the alleged abuse of six children found with two men in a Tallahassee, Fla., park discovered material yesterday in the Washington area that they say points to a 1960's style commune called the Finders, described in a court document as a "cult" that allegedly conducted "brainwashing" and used children "in rituals."

D. C. police, who searched a Northeast Washington warehouse linked to the group removed large plastic bags filled with color slides, photographs and photographic contact sheets. Some photos visible through a bag carried from the warehouse at 1307 Fourth St. NE were wallet-sized pictures of children, similar to school photos, and some were of naked children.

D.C. police sources said some of the items seized yesterday showed pictures of children engaged in what appeared to be "cult rituals." Officials of the U.S. Customs Service, called in to aid in the investigation, said that the material seized yesterday includes photos showing children involved in bloodletting ceremonies of animals and one photograph of a child in chains.

Customs officials said they were looking into whether a child pornography operation was being conducted.

According to court documents, computers and software were seized from the warehouse, from a Glover Park apartment building and from a van that was recovered in Tallahassee along with the children.

Yesterday's disclosures about the mysterious group grew out of an investigation that was set in motion Wednesday by an anonymous call to Tallahassee police about two "well-dressed men" who were "supervising" six dishevelled children in a neighborhood park. The men were arrested and charged with child abuse, according to Tallahassee police.

Their links to the D.C. area have led authorities into a far-reaching investigation that includes the Finders - a group of about 40 people that court documents allege is led by a man named Marion Pettie - and their various homes, including the duplex apartment building in Glover Park, the Northeast Washington warehouse and a 90 acre farm in rural Madison County, Va.

Tallahassee police, who arrested and charged men identified as Douglas E. Ammerman and Michael Houlihan with child abuse, contacted D.C. police Thursday in an attempt to establish the identities of the children. They learned that D.C. police had heard of the Finders group, according to Tallahassee police spokesman Scott Hunt. No other member of the group had been located last night, police sources said.

According to U.S. District Court records in Washington, a confidential police source had previously told authorities that the Finders were "a cult" that conducted "brainwashing" techniques at the warehouse and the Glover Park duplex at 3918 20W. St. NW. This source told of being recruited by the Finders with promises of "financial reward and sexual gratification" and of being invited by one member to "explore" satanism with them, according to the documents.

According to the affidavit the source told authorities that children were used in "rituals" by the members, and though the source had never witnessed abuse of the children, the source said the children's grandparents feared for their safety.

On Dec. 15, a D.C. police detective observed a clearing in the area of the 3900 block W. St. NW where "several round stones had been gathered" near a circle, as well as evidence that people had gathered there, according to the document, which stated that "this practice is sometimes used in satanic rituals."

Armed with that information and the report from Talahassee police of the allegedly abused children, D.C. police sought search warrants for the Glover Park residence and the warehouse.

Meanwhile, authorities in Florida attempted to learn more about the six small children, described by a police spokesman as "hungry and..pretty pathetic" who had set the investigation in motion.

The children, identified in a court document only by the first names of Honeybee, John Franklin, Bee Bee, Max and Mary, were described as "dirty unkept, hungry, disturbed and agitated". They had been living in the rear of the van for some time, the document said. Yesterday, police spokesman Hunt said one of the children, a 6 yr. old girl "showed signs of sexual abuse" but that an examination by a local doctor showed none of the children as being ill.

Five of the children were uncommunicative, according to police, and none seemed to recognize objects such as typewriters and staplers. However, the oldest was able to give investigators some information. She said that the two men "were their teachers," according to Hunt. She was not sure where they had been recently or where they were going. But until recently, they had been living in the District in "a house with other children and adults." They lived mainly on a diet of raw fruit and vegetables, she said.

The girl told the police that while they were in the District, the children received instruction from "a man they called a Game Caller or a Game Leader," according to Hunt.

According to the D.C. court document, a Tallahassee police investigator identified this man as Marion Pettie, who the confidential police source "also identified as the Stroller, leader of this 'cult.'" The children have been placed in emergency shelters in Tallahassee, according to Merril Moody of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. He said officials were trying to identify them.

Neighbors of the W Street house last night identified the photographs of two of the children as residents of the house. Before their arrests in the park, Ammerman and Houlihan had told police that they were teachers from Washington "transporting these children to Mexico and a school for brilliant children," according to Hunt. When police asked the men where the children's mothers where they said they were being weaned from their mothers.

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova said that authorities were investigating "the crime of kidnapping" but that the investigation "is not limited to that as the evidence evolves."

George Wisnowsky, spokesman for the FBI in Jacksonville, said the FBI was "checking the transportation of children across state lines for immoral purposes or kidnapping."

Authorities in Florida, who searched the van, found 20 floppy computer discs and a device Hunt said could be used to hook into a computer in another location by telephone. He said D.C. police have obtained evidence that a computer linked to the group received a call from Tallahassee late this week.

Meanwhile, authorities in Washington were busy searching the warehouse and the Glover Park residence, side-by-side brick apartment buildings that, according to neighbors, stood out in the neighborhood because of a hot tub and satellite dish on the roof. Only women and children lived there, though men visited regularly, according to neighbors.

One woman from the neighborhood said the children from the house were "easy to spot because they were so dirty," adding that adults with them "seemed not to care." She said the group from the house reminded her of "leftover hippies." But another neighbor, college professor John Matthews, who said he had lived at 3918 W St. for a short time while looking for an apartment, said the residents were "a close-knit group" of feminists who liked to help people and were not a cult. "The neighborhood talks about them because of their life style," Matthews said.

The Fourth Street warehouse, which authorities said also was used as a residence, had windows that were boarded shut. One wall was covered with a huge map of the world, lit by floodlights. Upstairs, mattresses were flung on the floors of various rooms.

Staff writers Joseph E. Bouchard, Ed Bruske, Mary Thonton, John Harris and Linda Wheeler contributed to this report.

(Seven years later...)

*U.S. News & World Report*,
Dec. 27, 1993/Jan 3. 1994

Through a glass, very darkly Cops, spies and a very odd investigation

The case is almost seven years old now, but matters surrounding a mysterious group known as the Finders keep growing curiouser and curiouser.

In early February 1987, an anonymous tipster in Tallahasse, Fla, made a phone call to police. Two "well dressed men" seemed to be "supervising" six dishevelled and hungry children in a local park, the caller said. The cops went after the case like bloodhounds, at least at first. The two men were identified as members of the Finders. They were charged with child abuse in Florida. In Washington, D.C. police and U.S. Customs Service agents raided a duplex apartment building and a warehouse connected to the group. Among the evidence seized - detailed instructions on obtaining children for unknown purposes and several photographs of nude children.

According to a Customs Service memorandum obtained by U.S. News, one photo appeared "to accent the child's genitals". The more the police learned about the Finders, the more bizarre they seemed: There were suggestions of child abuse, Satanism, dealing in pornography and ritualistic animal slaughter.

None of the allegations was ever proved, however. The child abuse charges against the two men in Tallahassee were dropped; all six of the children were eventually returned to their mothers, though in the case of two, conditions were attached by a court. In Washington, D.C. police began backing away from the Finders investigation. The groups practices, the police said, were eccentric - not illegal.

QUESTIONS. Today, things appear to have changed yet again. The Justice Department has begun a new investigation into the Finders and into the group's activities. It is also reviewing the 1987 investigation into the group to determine whether that probe was closed improperly. Justice officials will not elaborate, except to say the investigation is "ongoing" and that it involves "unresolved matters" in relation to the Finders.

One of the unresolved questions involves allegations that the Finders are somehow linked to the Central Intelligence Agency. Custom Service documents reveal that in 1987, when Customs agents sought to examine the evidence gathered by Washington, D.C. police, they were told that the Finders investigation "had become an internal matter."

The police report on the case had been classified secret. Even now, Tallahassee police complain about the handling of the Finders investigation by D.C. police. "They dropped this case, one Tallahasse investigator says, "like a hot rock." D.C. police will not comment on the matter. As for the CIA, ranking officials describe allegation about links between the intelligence agency and the Finders as "hogwash" perhaps the result of a simple mix up with D.C. police. The only connection, according to the CIA: A firm that provided computer training to CIA officers also employed several members of the Finders.

The many unanswered questions about the Finders case now have Democratic Rep. Charlie Rose of North Carolina, chairman of the House Administration Committee, and Florida's Rep. Tom Lewis, a Republican, more than a little exercised. "Could our own government have something to do with this Finders organization and turned their backs on these children? That's what all the evidence points to," says Lewis. "And there is a lot of evidence. I can tell you this: We've got a lot of people scrambling, and that wouldn't be happening if there was nothing here."

Perhaps. But the Finders say there is nothing there - at least nothing illegal. The Finders have never been involved in child abuse, pornography, Satanism, animal slaughter or anything of the kind, says the group's leader, Marion David Pettie. Pettie, too, says the group has never been connected to the CIA. In an interview with U.S. News, Pettie described the Finders as a communal, holistic-living and learning arrangement. The group numbers some 20 members, Pettie says; they do freelance journalism, research and "competitor intelligence" for a variety of mostly foreign clients. The Finders work for no foreign governments, Pettie says. Their duplex, in a residential Northwest Washington neighborhood, is decorated with global maps and bulletin boards. Residents in Culpepper, Va., 90 minutes from Washington, say the Finders operated an office there, too, from time to time. That office contained computer terminals and clocks reflecting different time zones from around the world.

CIA officials say they referred all matters concerning the Finders and the police investigation to the FBI's Foreign Counterintelligence Division. FBI officials will not comment. Law enforcement sources say some of the Finders are listed in the FBI's classified counterintelligence files.

None of this fazes Pettie. He says the CIA's interest in the Finders may stem from the fact that his late wife once worked for the agency and that his son worked for a CIA proprietary firm, Air America. Overall, says Pettie, "we're a zero security threat. When you don't do much of anything, and you don't explain, people start rumors about you." To judge from the latest case, some of the rumors can last an awfully long time.

By Gordon Witkin and Peter Cary with Ancel Martinez

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