LEXINGTON — If the tales they told police are true, a group of children in rural Missouri grew up in a house of horror, where some were raped by relatives, then told to write down their memories in little glass jars and bury them in the ground.
Two decades later though, as authorities work to piece together what happened, there's no evidence the jars have been found and other relatives say police have offered little evidence to support their accusations.
Burrell Mohler Sr., 77, and his four adult sons appeared in court in western Missouri on Tuesday where they were charged with additional sex crimes including rape and sodomy, and in a bizarre twist, a search warrant claims one of the suspects forced their victims to help kill and bury a man.
"These fellas have all had respectable jobs, and for this to come up so many years later," Ron Gamble, a relative of the accused family members, said after Tuesday's hearing. "In this country, you're innocent until proven guilty. ... Have they found any evidence? I haven't heard of any."
Since authorities began their search of the Mohlers' former rural property outside Bates City on Nov. 10, the case has moved nearly every day to a new and sometimes darker place. One early court record detailed allegations of rape that included claims that the children were assaulted with sharp objects and one girl was forced to have sexual contact with a dog.
As crews began their search for evidence, Lafayette County Sheriff Kerrick Alumbaugh said he believed they might find a body or bodies and buried glass jars with notes written by children, who might have documented sexual abuse. The children were told to write down bad memories and bury them there and "the memories would go away," said Sgt. Collin Stosberg of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Even more shocking claims lay ahead.
A search warrant, filed Nov. 9 but released to the media on Tuesday, stated three of the alleged children observed "several murders" and were forced to help kill and bury a man in April 1988.
The warrant said one of the accused, Burrell E. Mohler Jr., and the children followed a large man from an Independence shopping center to his home. They parked outside, then the children lured the man over to their car by telling him that their father was having a heart attack. When the man leaned over to help, Mohler Jr. allegedly "wrapped his arms around the victim's neck" and subdued him, the warrant said.
Mohler Jr. then drove the man to his father's property in Bates City. There, Mohler gave knives to the girls and ordered the children to attack the man and stab him, and threatened to kill the children if they refused, the warrant said
One of the children then jumped on the man's back and stabbed him, but it was a stab wound from the adult that actually killed the victim, according to the warrant. The children were then forced to help dig a grave for the man and bury him.
But, the warrant offers no details about the stabbing victim or why he was targeted. Independence police said their department had no information about a person disappearing in April 1988 after driving away from an Independence mall. Nothing in the warrant suggests where the man lived.
The Highway Patrol's online "missing adults" Web site lists only one active case from 1988, involving a man reported missing Dec. 11 of that year from the eastern Missouri town of Union about 200 miles to the east.
Authorities also have not provided additional details about the alleged stabbing and have declined to say what has been found on the property.
Authorities said they are taking all the accusations seriously, but they insist their focus is on the sexual abuse case and refuse to comment on the murder allegation. "We are focusing on the sex crimes investigation," Stosberg said.
On Tuesday, relatives of the Mohler family were in the crowded courtroom as a judge read 15 new sex charges against the five men.
The charges added to 14 filed last week, accusing Mohler Sr., of Independence, of rape, sodomy and the use of a child in a sexual performance. His four sons, Mohler Jr., 53, Independence; Jared Leroy Mohler, 48, of Columbia; Roland Neil Mohler, 47, of Bates City; and David A. Mohler, 52, of Lamoni, Iowa, were charged with rape.
During their brief court appearance, four of the five men said they were still trying to find attorneys. Jared Leroy Mohler said he had hired a lawyer, who did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Meanwhile, one of several women who came forward to police also told investigators that she twice became pregnant and the men buried her first baby in their basement, according to another search warrant.
That warrant released Monday said a radar used to search the rural property where Burrell Mohler Sr. and his sons lived in the 1980s found an anomaly "consistent with the shape of a box" under the basement's concrete floor.
The woman told investigators that she was locked in the basement and raped in 1988.
She said the baby was buried in a box under the basement's only window. The affidavit said the basement floor was dirt at the time, and "following the delivery of the first baby, Burrell E. Mohler Sr. and Burrell E. Mohler Jr. buried the infant in the basement." The floor was later covered in concrete, according the warrant.
Gamble, however, said none of the charges seemed plausible to him.
"Believe me, if these things would have happened when Alice was alive she would have been on top of this," Gamble said. Alice Mohler was Burrell E. Mohler Sr.'s wife and died in 1991, he said.
No additional charges were filed against the sixth person accused in the case, Darrel W. Mohler, 72, who was being held in Marion County, Fla., on two counts of rape stemming from 1986. He agreed to be extradited to Missouri, but his arrival wasn't immediately clear.
Various documents in the case identify the relationship between the siblings and the suspects. The Associated Press is not revealing that relationship to avoid identifying the alleged victims of sexual assault.