Papa Pilgrim still in state, troopers say
FUGITIVE: Accused of raping daughter, man believed to be in Valdez-Glennallen.
Published: September 29, 2005
Last Modified: September 29, 2005 at 04:02 AM
The man known as Papa Pilgrim remained on the loose Wednesday, but Alaska State Troopers said they were confident he is still in the state and probably still in the Richardson Highway area south of Glennallen.
"We certainly don't think he made it out of the state yet," said trooper Sgt. Dallas Massie. "We have reason to believe he's still in the Valdez-Glennallen area."
Troopers were also looking into tips from other parts of the state involving the 64-year-old fugitive, whose legal name is Robert Hale. The Scripture-quoting patriarch was indicted last Thursday on 30 counts of sexual assault and related charges involving one of his daughters.
The 17-member family, bound by strict rules that Hale drew from his reading of the Bible, broke apart last winter after a single, horrific episode, described by troopers this week. They said Hale locked a daughter in a small shack on family property near the Kennicott River in McCarthy and raped her repeatedly. Some other family members knew she was in there, heard suspicious sounds and were concerned, troopers said.
Soon after, the older children left the family, which also had a homestead on an old mining site 14 miles from McCarthy, inside Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. A sympathetic Palmer family took them in. Troopers were contacted over Labor Day and began an investigation.
"When our sister came to us for help, we were united in our desire before God to take whatever action was necessary to protect her," the older Hale children said in a statement Tuesday.
Multiple charges of rape and assault, as well as single charges of kidnapping, coercion, and incest, were pegged to an incident Jan. 10. Other charges broadly cover the seven years the family known as the Pilgrims have been in Alaska.
Troopers who have interviewed the children say Hale was able to carry on his abuse of his daughter in secret.
"It was a secretive thing, so most of the family wasn't aware of the direct sexual abuse," said investigator Derek DeGraaf.
But the situation was complicated by the mysterious hold the father had over his family, said Massie.
"The control that this individual had and the manipulation with the entire family, it's hard even for experienced investigators to understand," Massie said. "This is something for people much smarter than me to study down the road."
The Pilgrim family had been in a public spotlight for several years because of a high-profile feud with the National Park Service over access to their land. Their appearance as a simple, devout, music-playing family leading a subsistence wilderness life had broad appeal.
The troopers prepared their initial case without talking to Hale and went to a Palmer grand jury last Thursday. As they did so, they put out word to border stations, trooper posts and airports to watch for Hale. Massie said the alert included pictures and went several steps beyond a routine notice.
Hale was in McCarthy at the time, staying in a wall tent near the Kennicott River shack. He slipped away when a trooper helicopter went to arrest him Friday evening. Troopers say they think he drove off in a dark-blue Dodge camper van.Reporter Tom Kizzia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or in Homer at 907-235-4244