TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Two men arrested after being seen in a Tallahassee park with six child

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Two men arrested after being seen in a Tallahassee park with six children dressed in rags were held Friday on child abuse charges, and police said the men may be part of an international satanic cult whose members give up their children. Some of the children told police they hadn't seen their parents since before Christmas. "They evidently have come from such sheltered existences that they had no concept of what a telephone was, or TV or anything like that," Scott Hunt, spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department, said Thursday. The children, ages 2 to 6, may have been given up by their parents so the parents could join a satanic cult in Washington, D.C., authorities in Florida said. Washington authorities discovered material Friday that they say points to a 1960s-style commune called the Finders, described in a court document as a "cult" that allegedly conducted "brainwashing" and used children "in rituals." Washington police, who searched a warehouse there linked to the group, removed large plastic bags filled with color slides, photographs and photographic contact sheets. Some photos visible through a bag, as it was carried from the warehouse, were of children; some were wallet-sized, similar to school pictures, and some were of naked children. Washington police said some of the items seized Friday showed pictures of children engaged in what appeared to "cult rituals." Officials of the U.S. Customs Service, called in to aid in the investigation, said the material seized 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. Tallahassee police were alerted Wednesday by anonymous callers concerned because the men were dressed in coats and ties while the children, unwashed and insect-bitten, were playing in tattered clothes at Myers Park, a downtown playground. Upon questioning after their arrest Wednesday, the men said the children were being "weaned" from their mothers in Washington. They said they were taking the children to Mexico to start a school for brilliant children. They denied any blood relationship with the children and refused to answer other questions. "We don't know what we've got. All we have is six children and we don't know where they came from," Hunt said. The oldest child said the children had never been to school. They had been traveling for several days or weeks, she said, although she didn't know where they had been. She also said they hadn't seen their parents since before Christmas. The girl said that when they did eat, they were given raw fruit and vegetables. Police identified the men as Douglas Edward Ammerman, 27, and Michael Houlihan, 28, and said they were believed to be from the Washington area. The two were each charged Thursday with one count of child abuse. They appeared in court Friday and were jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail. The oldest child and a 2-year-old boy claimed to be brother and sister and said Houlihan was their father. The other children were a 3-year-old girl and three boys, ages 6, 4 and 2, authorities said. Medical exams showed one child had been sexually abused, Hunt said Friday.


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