LEXINGTON, MO. Authorities on Wednesday were searching a rural property in western Missouri for bodies and buried glass jars containing notes written more than 15 years ago by children who may have documented sexual abuse by five members of their own family.
Lafayette County Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh pleaded for the public’s help, saying investigators “believe that there are other victims out there, and we believe people in the public can give us more information.”
Alumbaugh said authorities believe there may be bodies buried on the property outside Bates City, which is about 30 miles east of Kansas City. He refused to say to whom any of the bodies would have belonged. The property and a nearby home are owned by a man unrelated to the case who is cooperating with authorities.
A small excavator could be seen moving across the property Wednesday. Two ambulances were parked nearby, and crews were searching a creek with metal detectors.
“There has been an indication that there are body or bodies in numerous locations,” Alumbaugh said.
The five men were arrested Tuesday and are charged with several felonies, including forcible sodomy, rape with a child younger than 12 and use of a child in a sexual performance. The allegations, which include bestiality and forcing an 11-year-old to have an abortion, date from 1988 to 1995.
All five were being held in the Lafayette County jail on cash bonds ranging from $30,000 to $75,000. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.
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.
Cpl. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said one of the alleged victims, now 26, came forward to investigators in mid-August with the abuse allegations. A probable cause statement released by the Lafayette County prosecutor’s office says other relatives of the woman have come forward accusing all five men of abuse, but it’s unclear whether all the relatives were claiming to be abused.
Lowe said the woman told investigators that she and the other alleged victims buried glass jars around the property, filled with messages “about what was happening to them” when they were younger.
“Those jars have that information,” Lowe said.
The woman told authorities she had “suppressed many of the memories of abuse perpetrated on her” and the other alleged victims, according to the probable cause statement.
Sgt. Collin Stosberg, a spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, said adults told the children that if they wrote down bad memories and put them in a jar, “the bad memories would go away.”
“That was what they were told. Write these memories down, put them in a jar and bury it and the memories would go away,” Stosberg said. “It was a way for them to cope.”
The probable cause statement identifies the relationship between the alleged victims and the suspects. The Associated Press, however, is not revealing that relationship to avoid identifying the alleged victims of sexual assault.
The woman who came forward claimed some of the men sexually abused her and her siblings, forced her to have sex with a dog, forced the siblings into fake marriages with relatives and forced her to watch as her brother was abused.
“She became pregnant and was made to have an abortion at age 11 1/2. She doesn’t remember any sexual abuse after that date,” the probable cause statement said.
The Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, the Rural Missouri Major Case Squad and the Highway Patrol were investigating, with the help of the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.
The suspects were identified as Burrell Edward Mohler Sr., 77, of Independence, and his sons, Burrell Edward Mohler Jr., 53, also of Independence; Jared Leroy Mohler, 48, of Columbia; Roland Neil Mohler, 47, of Bates City; and David A. Mohler, 52, of Lamoni, Iowa.