Winnipeg Free Press
April 11, 1986
Winnipeg Police are unrepentant after a massive pre-dawn raid on six homes and businesses operated by a controversial religious group came up empty-handed yesterday.
But representatives of the group – called the Community of Winnipeg – say the police are treating them unfairly and persecuting them because of their beliefs and communal lifestyle.
Caledonia Country Sheriff Jeffrey Bitcon, who has been investigating the case for six years, said there have been numerous sightings of Wooten, but he has managed to slip through the fingers of law enforcement agencies time after time.
“I believe (the Community) is moving him around and sheltering him from police,” Bitcon said.
“We’ve come close to getting him a few times, and it looks like the police up there just missed him again.”
Winnipeg police believe members of the community have harboured Wooten in Winnipeg for some time. They became aware of the fact that the fugitive may be in the city “in the past days or weeks” when an informant tipped them off, Biener said.
Now that Wooten knows police are looking for him here, it is likely that he will move on to another hiding place, police say.
Meanwhile, members of the Community in Winnipeg denied allegations of their involvement in the Wooten case, saying they know who Wooten is, but that he has never been in Winnipeg. “I’ve never personally ever met the father of the children nor have I seen the children, said Community leader David Saylor.
“They’ve never been to Winnipeg, to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve been here for the whole three years” the Community has been in Winnipeg.
Community member Edward Dawson said the police invasion has angered him and upset other group members.
“We feel very troubled about the way we were treated,” he said.
“If they obtained a search warrant to look for those two children, fine, but when they started questioning our beliefs and our lifestyle and getting into all these other areas that they have no right to be in, that’s when I have a hard time.”
Saylor said he will get legal advice about whether his group has grounds for a lawsuit.
But police stand behind their search, pointing out it is not the first time Community members have been linked to child abduction cases.
U.S. police sources said the group’s beliefs and use of corporal punishment have created numerous incidents where one parent has taken children from the other and been secreted into the organization.
U.S. marshals arrested Dawson at a group commune in Santa Cruz., Calif., in 1994 after a two-year long search for his 11-year old son Michael, who was abducted in Nova Scotia in 1992. The child was returned to his mother in Montreal and Dawson was released.