LEXINGTON, Mo. - Family members of five men charged in a bizarre child sex abuse case reacted with disbelief and sadness Thursday to the "unspeakable" string of alleged atrocities spanning two decades.
"It's unspeakable. I can't think of words that would put this in perspective. I find it repulsive if it's true," said Darrel Mohler, a brother of one of the five men charged.
The men - a father and his four adult sons - were dressed in orange jumpsuits and shackled at their wrists, waists and ankles on Thursday when they made their first court appearance. Associate Circuit Judge John Frerking read the charges against them, including forcible sodomy, rape with a child younger than 12 and use of a child in a sexual performance.
Authorities resumed a search Thursday at a rural property about 30 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri, where members of the Mohler family once lived. They believe they may find a body or bodies and buried glass jars with notes written by children who may have documented sexual abuse.
Authorities said a 26-year-old woman came forward to investigators in mid-August with allegations of sexual abuse that began in the 1980s and continued until about 1995. A probable cause statement released by the Lafayette County prosecutor's office says five other siblings of the woman have accused all five men of abuse, but it's unclear if all the siblings were claiming to be victims.
Burrell Edward Mohler Sr., 77, looked ill, keeping his eyes closed during much of the proceeding and coughing several times.
The other suspects are Mohler's sons: Burrell Edward Mohler Jr., 53; Jared Leroy Mohler, 48; Roland Neil Mohler, 47; and David A. Mohler, 52.
The allegations - including bestiality, forcing children into fake marriages with relatives and making an 11-year-old have an abortion - date from 1988 to 1995.
The men did not enter pleas and said little during the 20-minute hearing. They did not appear to have legal representation. The judge told them they could apply for public defenders.
The men are being held on cash bonds ranging from $30,000 to $75,000. Their next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 17.
Darrel Mohler, brother of Burrell Mohler Sr., said Thursday that he hasn't seen his brother for years and the two were never close. "I'm 72, and this kind of struck me right in the gut," he said.
Cpl. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Thursday that about 50 law enforcement officials are involved in the case, and that several leads have come in since the arrests Tuesday.
On Thursday afternoon, crews dug with a backhoe in front of a garage on the property. The excavation previously had taken place about 200 yards (meters) from a house in a wooded area.
Lowe said the woman told investigators that she and her siblings had buried glass jars around the property that were filled with messages they had written "about what was happening to them" when they were younger. The woman said she had "suppressed many of the memories of abuse perpetrated on her" and her siblings, according to the probable cause statement.
The Associated Press is not revealing details that could identify the alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Three of the five men are lay ministers in the Community of Christ church whose licenses have been suspended, church spokeswoman Linda L. Booth said.