Child sex cult leader freed from prison

August 14, 2008 5:33:07 AM PDT
On Friday, after serving 33 years for sex crimes against children, George Feigley, 68, will exit prison and reenter society. Because of the timing and the nature of his crimes, he is not subject to Megan's Law restrictions. He will not be ordered to check in with police or with a parole officer. He will not wear a tracking device.

He is expected to return to his house at 1316 Derry St. in Harrisburg, the residence where in 1975 prosecutors say he sexually abused children while acting as the charismatic leader of a sex cult and advocating the use of children for sexual gratification, according to police reports.

Feigley, who used aliases such as "G.G. Stoctay Ph.D." and "the Angel of Light," has long maintained that his Neo American Church was never a cult. But he had a group of devoted followers who risked life and limb for him.

In 1976, he engineered a daring escape by scaling a prison wall and fleeing to West Virginia where he'd started a commune and school. Police and FBI caught up to him in 1978, but he escaped again less than a month later while awaiting extradition. Nabbed again by the FBI in Tennessee, he was behind bars again in two months.

In 1983, according to newspaper reports, two of his followers died in what was believed to be another attempt to spring him from prison. A man and a woman crawled into a sewer line close to the Western Penitentiary only to drown when the Ohio River swept in.

In 1994, Feigley and his wife, Sandra, were back in court. Prosecutors said Feigley had been orchestrating the abuse of a minor from prison. While speaking on a prison phone, Feigley gave commands to his wife and another man on work release to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Feigley was found guilty and sentenced for conspiracy to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Because of problems with the search warrants, Feigley's wife and the girl's mother were able to plead guilty and receive probation.

In the 1970s, everyone in Harrisburg knew the name of George Feigley and the Neo American Church, which prized sexual pleasure above all else, on Derry Street.

"Back then, it seemed like someone always knew someone somehow involved," said Scott Portzline, a concerned citizen who has followed this case since the 1980s. "It seemed like everyone had a friend or a cousin or a girlfriend with some sort of affiliation."

Now, in 2008, it is an old and strange case that few remember. But because of a flurry of recent media attention surrounding Feigley's release, Harrisburg is getting a history lesson on the details of crimes against children committed by Feigley and his followers.

The tenets of Feigley's Neo American Church, not to be confused with a church of the same name founded by Timothy Leary in the 1960s, included an emphasis on achieving mystical experiences through orgasm. It also included a sinister point of view on the sexuality of children and how they should be used for pleasure.

Feigley founded the church and the school in 1971. But in 1975, after receiving complaints from one of the parents, the police became aware that something wasn't right on Derry Street. Feigley was arrested on multiple counts of statutory rape, indecent assault and corrupting the morals of minors, for which he was sentenced to 10 years to 20 years in prison.

His wife, Sandra, was also found guilty of corrupting the morals of minors.

According to court documents, "the defendant's design was to operate 'church oriented school' free from government regulation for the ostensible purpose of education when their real goal was to gratify their own deviant sexual desires."

When the Derry Street home was raided in 1983, authorities were stunned to find young children playing with sex toys, boxes of child pornography and tracts allegedly written by Feigley describing his ethos on children and sexuality. Feigley's wife, Sandra, and others pleaded guilty to corruption of minors and were sentenced to prison.

ABC News was not able to speak with any of the victims of Feigley and the Neo American Church, but according to reports from The Patriot-News, a Harrisburg newspaper, there is legitimate fear for their safety upon his release.

"I spoke to one of his victims who's now scared out of her wits," said Annette Antoun, publisher of the weekly Paxton-Herald in Harrisburg. "She wants to change her locks."

Sandra Feigley still lives on Derry Street. ABC News' attempts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful. Still his loyal defender, she runs and writes for a Web site called www.prisoners.com.

The site, whose aim appears to provide an outlet for Pennsylvania inmates to voice their complaints on the penal system, is, not surprisingly, also an outlet for George Feigley to pontificate on such subjects as the war in Iraq, the corruption of the judicial system and, more worrisome, his views on how the motivations for rape and rapists are misunderstood.

Also a cause of concern is the fact that his wife still sells old tracts from the Neo American Church on her own Web site. According to the site, all proceeds benefit www.prisoners.com.

According to Dauphin Country District Attorney Ed Marsico, who described Feigley as an "intelligent, well-spoken" man, there is nothing to be done about George Feigley in 2008. "He's served all of his time. He's maxed out."

Feigley has been "grandfathered" out of Megan's Law because his original sex crimes occurred in the 1970s. In a strange legal twist, his 1994 conviction on conspiracy to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse doesn't fall under Megan's Law either.

Marsico admits that because the court is aware that Feigley's followers were abusing children as recently as the mid-1990s, there is cause for concern. "We have a plan," he said, "but we're glad for all the media attention being paid to this case."

Law enforcement is working to get up to date on this bizarre case that preceded most of their tenures. What was a shocking case in the mid-1970s has been collecting dust in the annals of Harrisburg history until now.

John Goshert, now the chief county detective for Dauphin County, says that this case has largely been forgotten in Harrisburg, save for its elder members.

"There's been a lot of recent concern," he said. "People are reading the news now and can't believe it. No one even knows who this guy was. But he's done his time. He's got his rights."

Harrisburg residents and neighbors who have never heard of George Feigley or the Neo American Church were taken aback when they read about the case and heard the news that this man was returning to their area.

Angel Fox, a 27-year-old counselor who works with abused children, was shocked to learn that not only was a convicted sex offender and alleged cult leader moving back to her neighborhood, but he was moving right next door.

"I'd never heard of him, none of us had," said Fox. "Once we read about the story in the newspaper, I started a petition. We've been getting a lot of support from the schools and from local organizations."

Fox has organized a protest for Friday. "We want him to know that he and his religious whatever is not welcome here. "

Fox also made the point that back in the 1970s, the abuse of children was more of a taboo topic. Not anymore, she says.

"We've got a lot of single mothers and grandmothers raising children in this neighborhood now," said Fox. "It's not like it used to be. We're here to tell him that we're not having it, not now, not ever."

While the name of George Feigley is a new one to many in Harrisburg, there are some who never forgot his early crimes.

"I think the cult will regroup," said Portzline. "There might only be half a dozen left, but they're the hard-core ones."

Goshert is more optimistic. "We can only hope that he is rehabilitated and that his years in prison have put him on the right track."

No one can be sure whether Feigley still has followers in Harrisburg. Feigley is nearly 70 and reportedly in poor health.

According to Sandra Feigley's former attorney Allen Welch, she has indicated that the two of them just want to get on with what's left of their lives.

"He's not in the best shape from what I've heard," said Welch. "I can't believe he's the charismatic guy he once was."


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