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Girl 'married' at 8 says sex started in 3rd grade

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A woman who said evangelist Tony Alamo "married" her at age 8 told federal jurors Thursday that he sexually assaulted her repeatedly until she escaped his compound in late 2006.

The woman, now 18, said Alamo groped her at age 8. She said Alamo began having sex with her when she was a 9-year-old third-grader who weighed only 98 pounds.

Alamo took explicit photographs of her that year with an instant camera and, on looking at them, called her a "whore." She said she didn't understand the term but that Alamo told her it was a good thing.

Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count indictment alleging he took young girls across state lines for sex.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) – A woman who noted in her Bible the first time she had sex with evangelist Tony Alamo – at age 14 – told jurors in his sex-crimes trial Thursday that she was married to the flamboyant pastor that year in a prison visiting room.

The woman, initially from Oklahoma, said Alamo fondled her after they exchanged vows at a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, but that a closed-circuit television system failed to catch him.

"We would lean in really close to each other so the camera wouldn't see," she said, crying.

Alamo, 74, is accused of taking five underage girls across state lines for sex. The woman, now 25, said she was among many female followers of Alamo who visited him while he served a four-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

Defense lawyers say the government has targeted the ministry, and Alamo has said the trial is part of a Vatican-led conspiracy against him. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors showed jurors a page from the woman's Bible with the notation "Holy Matrimony" and the date they first had sex, July 17, 1998 – 11 days after Alamo, then 63, left federal prison for a halfway house.

In her testimony, the woman said her mother was an Alamo follower who, at Alamo's direction, sent her to his compound in southwestern Arkansas after she fell into trouble at home. Her offense: revealing that her brother liked another girl in the ministry.

The woman said she traveled with Alamo to Las Vegas and Los Angeles in 2000, when she was 16, and had sex with him during the trip.

She was the third former child bride of Alamo's to testify to having sex with him below age 18. A woman from Texas, now 33, said on the witness stand earlier Thursday that the minister made light of taking a young girl on the road as a wife and sex partner.

"It was a joke in the house that she was underage," she said. "It was a flaunting that he could get away with this."

The Texas woman said Alamo ran her husband out of the church and took her as another of his brides. She told jurors that, while sexually assaulting her the night of their marriage, Alamo screamed out: "The blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is against you, Satan." She was 17 then, Alamo was age 59.

She said she didn't contact authorities for years because Alamo had taught his followers that the government justice system was evil.

"This was the courtroom of Satan and we were in the courtroom of God" with Alamo, she told jurors.

Under cross-examination, she acknowledged returning to Alamo's compound after he evicted her husband but said she did so because she was afraid God would punish her if she didn't do as Alamo said.

"I lived in fear of hellfire and I believed that God could strike me dead," said the woman, who was born into the church her parents joined as teenage runaways. She said she was not taken across state lines for sex until after reaching age 18.

The Associated Press generally does not identify those who say they were victims of sex crimes.

A woman from Florida testified Wednesday that she was a third-generation follower – and a teenage Alamo bride – but raised questions when he took an 8-year-old as a wife. She said Alamo told her, "the Lord told me to" molest the girl, who was holding on to a stuffed animal at the time.

Thursday's first witness, the woman from Texas, said Alamo canceled biology classes for children inside the compound after discovering that topics would include sexual reproduction. The Florida woman had said that children at the compound were separated by gender by fifth grade to prevent "hanky-panky between boys and girls."

If convicted, Alamo faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the 10 counts against him. He is being held without bond.