Cult defector helps bring another’s child back home
March 23, 1983
Juan Mattatall, a defector from the Northeast Kingdom Community Church of Island Pond [now known as “Twelve Tribes] who is trying to get his own three year old daughter back from Europe in the custody of cult leader Eugene Spriggs, has reportedly helped bring another defector’s child home from Spain.
Six year old Spring Howell was brought back to the U.S. last week, according to Suzanne Cloutier of Orleans, an active opponent of the Island Pond cult. She was located by long distance telephone, living with 23 adults and five children in Grenada, Spain. Her family obtained the assistance of Spanish police, Mrs. Cloutier said, and an uncle flew to Spain to bring her home. She is now with her mother, Debra Howell, at the home of her grandparents in Alabama.
But according to Mrs. Cloutier, the child’s buttocks bears about 15 permanent scars, the apparent result of adult cult members administering beatings.
Mrs. Cloutier said Tuesday that Spring Howell’s long distance discovery and rescue was the result of joint efforts of her mother and Mr. Mattatall. Mrs. Howell left the cult several years ago to live in California, leaving behind her husband, still a resident of Island Pond, and their young daughter.
With the assistance of a telephone operator, Debra Howell was able to obtain a Spanish phone number from which collect calls had been made to the Island Pond community. Mattatall, a Spanish speaking native of South America, called the number, which turned out to be a bar and grill in Granada, Mrs. Cloutier said.
From there he obtained the number of a Catholic priest, who said a group of American and German adults were living in the city with several children. Mrs. Howell contacted U.S. officials in Spain, and police picked the child up and held her until her uncle could arrive.