Courts & Crime

Search in sex abuse case turns into search for bodies

Authorities are searching a rural property near Bates City, Mo., looking for bodies, as well as buried jars of written memories of anguish and horror allegedly left years ago by sexually abused children.

Indications are that "an individual or individuals were killed," Lafayette County Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh said Wednesday as law enforcement personnel swarmed over a farm once owned by one of five men arrested the day before.

Investigators also expect that even more than the five alleged victims of the decades-old "mock weddings" will come forward. Court documents indicate the case involved rape, sodomy and bestiality, Alumbaugh said at his Lexington office. Investigators see a "strong possibility" of more victims, he said.

Five members of the Mohler family, a 77-year-old father and four of his middle-aged sons, were arrested Tuesday on multiple charges of forcible sodomy and rape after a woman related stories of her and other children being forced to line up on a bed on their knees and each being assaulted by the men.

The victim also alleged the girls wore special dresses and had flowers in their hair for their "weddings." After hers, she was led to a chicken coop located on the farm where she said the senior Mohler put a blanket over the door and said: "You all have fun."

The woman said she was forced to have an abortion before the age of 12.

Two men from Independence were charged — Burrell Edward Mohler Sr., 77, and Burrell Edward Mohler Jr., 53. Also charged were Jared Leroy Mohler, 48, of Columbia; Roland Neil Mohler, 47, of Bates City; and David A. Mohler, 52, of Iowa. All five were in the Lafayette County Jail on cash bonds ranging from $30,000 to $75,000.

The arrests came several weeks after the woman alleged in mid-August that the abuse occurred between 1988 and 1995, according to online charging documents. "It was a very horrendous crime, and we took it very seriously at that point," said Alumbaugh.