The Winnipeg Sun
April 11, 1996
Police search for kids actually ‘witch-hunt’
Angry members of a local religious cult say there were ulterior motives behind raids more than 70 police officers conducted yesterday in a search for two kidnapped kids.
Cops hit four homes and two businesses just before 6 a.m. looking for two children kidnapped seven years ago by their father, a known cult member.
David Taylor, a member of the Northeast Kingdom Community Church, said police separated him from his children, took photos of them, searched through his personal belongings and questioned his beliefs and parenting skills.
“We don’t have a problem if they came to look for the children, but it’s pretty evident they were looking for more than they said they were,” Saylor said, adding he’s never seen the kids or their father.
“It seems like some sort of a witch-hunt,” he said, adding the group would be contacting a lawyer concerning possible legal action against the police.
Nathan Wooten, now 16, and his brother Seth, now 12, were taken from their mother Lori in Island Pond, Vt., in September 1989, and police believe they may have recently come to Winnipeg to stay with local church members.
“They seem to be so well hidden in the community they’re involved in, and I believe (local cult members) have been helping them out,” said Caledonia County Vt., Sheriff Jeffrey Bitcon.
The family belonged to the Vermont branch until Lori Wooten separated from her husband Steven Wooten, left the group, and was granted full custody of the boys.
Steven, now 41, had visitation rights and vanished with the kids while they were in his care.
Edward Dawson, another local church member, said yesterday’s search may have ruined three years of good relations with the police.
“We’ve cooperated to the utmost during the last three years and we feel very troubled how we were treated,” said Dawson.
Police denied the member’s claims and insisted the search, which turned up nothing, was only for the missing children.
“We have no regrets the warrants were executed,” said youth Insp. Ken Biener, adding the 78 residents of the six premises were treated well.
At least one cult member agrees with police.
Daniel Fontaine said cops awakened him at his door but he had no problem with the search of his Wardlaw Avenue home.
“Police were very polite and peaceful and one of the constables even said he was embarrassed,” said Fontaine, 39, the owner of Northern Lights Candles.
Police also searched Fontaine’s business, and his only complaint was finding his door kicked in when he arrived at work yesterday.