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The Strange Saga of Papa Pilgrim Part 5 Papa Pilgrim' Pleads No Contest To Rape, Incest
The Strange Saga of Papa Pilgrim

Part 5

Papa Pilgrim' Pleads No Contest To Rape, Incest

(Snippits from an article by Jason Moore in Palmer, Alaska)

Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006

Robert Hale, the 65-year-old man once known as Papa Pilgrim, reached a
plea agreement today on charges that he raped his own daughter. Hale
pleaded no contest to three charges that consolidated more than two
dozen counts against him.

Hale appeared frail, confined to a wheelchair, in the Palmer courtroom.
He told the judge that doctors do not give him much time to live.

"I spent Christmas Day in the hospital and they found some blood clots
in my knee. Doctors this morning gave me months to live, so I'm not
really concerned, but for my family," Hale said.

Many of Hale's children were in the courtroom along with the
Buckinghams, a Mountain family that took them in. They watched as Hale
entered no contest pleas to sexual assault, incest and coercion,
essentially admitting to raping one of his daughters over the course of
several years.

But while entering the pleas, Hale denied the charges.

"I want to make it clear that I never in any kind of way ever sexually
assaulted anyone but for all counts and purposes, for the families, I
plead no contest for all this. I think I understand with a clear mind
that this is what's best for my family and me," he said.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors say Hale should get a 14-year
prison sentence. Hale could have received a slightly stiffer sentence
had the case gone to trial, but prosecutors say they didn't want to put
the daughter through that.

"When I got this case, it was full bore. We were not going to make any
offers -- no offers -- because the behavior was egregious, horrible
behavior. And after about a year and a half, and I give my wife most of
the credit, my heart got a little soft because I don't want this girl to
have to go in front of cameras and tell what happened. What happened is
awful and horrible," said assistant district attorney Richard Payne.

Now, the family is ready to put this difficult chapter behind them.
Hale is scheduled to be sentenced April 30 in Glennallen.


Now Hale Wants To Change Plea And Go To Trial

(Snippits from an article by Tom Kizzia)
Anchorage Daily News

April 28, 2007

Robert Hale, the wilderness patriarch who calls himself Papa Pilgrim,
wants to change his no-contest plea and face trial after all on charges
of rape, kidnapping and incest.

Hale's sentencing, which was scheduled for Monday in Glennallen, was
postponed this week. A court date was set for September to consider his
bid to withdraw the plea.

Hale contends he was too much under the influence of drugs administered
for various medical problems in jail to understand the implications of
the plea agreement, according to Palmer District Attorney Richard Payne.
The prosecutor said he plans to oppose the effort to change the plea
back to not guilty.

The plea agreement was worked out last December by Hale's lawyer, Palmer
public defender Lee de Grazia. Hale will be represented at the Sept. 13
hearing instead by the state's Office of Public Advocacy, Payne said.

Hale has been ill with diabetes, blood clots and infection. At a court
hearing in December, he was noticeably frailer than when he first went
to jail. He said at the time he did not expect to live long. Payne, the
prosecutor, said that if the court accepts the plea reversal, a trial
couldn't begin until the beginning of next year at the earliest. That
would mean Hale's trial had been delayed a full year by the
flip-flopping pleas.

Hale's family now contends he manipulated and misled them with his
interpretations of the Bible. They are living with another devout
Christian family in Palmer.

Reporter Tom Kizzia can be reached at or in Homer at


The Robert Hale Family Testifies

(Snippits from article by Tom KIzzia,
at Ancorage Daily News)

Nov. 27, 2007

Monday was the start of a two-day sentencing hearing for Hale, who has
pleaded no contest to rape, assault and incest for crimes against one of
his daughters. Hale, who is 66 and in poor health, faces a 14-year
prison sentence under his plea agreement.

Only minor points are at issue in the sentencing: whether to impose an
additional suspended sentence, what probation conditions to impose. But
in a case that never went to trial, the "victim impact statements"
opened a new window on Papa Pilgrim's "simple wilderness family."

The children of Robert Hale finally got the chance Monday to do
something they'd waited for their whole lives: talk back to their

Until this week, no one was ever allowed to question the pious patriarch
who called himself Papa Pilgrim and lived by his own interpretation of
the Bible.

For four harrowing hours, Hale's wife and 14 of his 15 children spoke to
the court of life inside what they now say was a "cult." They said their
father kept them isolated, ignorant and under his control.

The children mostly read from statements they'd prepared, though the
older children could read only haltingly. Hale said nothing and seldom
made eye contact, sitting in a wheelchair and scribbling furiously on a
gray legal pad as they talked.

In a crowded Anchorage courtroom, they got to tell him how it felt when
he dragged their mother out of their cabin by her hair and then pasted
fistfuls of her hair to the wall as a warning to others.

They told him how it felt when he ordered their older brothers to the
whipping barrel and lashed them until they bled, their mother forced to
shove a rag in the boys' mouths if they screamed too loud.

The littlest children got to describe what it was like, after the older
siblings fled, to watch their papa beat the baby of the family, pushing
them away when they tried to stop him.

The 2005 indictment against Hale barely hinted at the horrors of
homestead life described in court Monday.

The family told of a father whose anger boiled over regularly,
especially after he went back to drinking alcohol. A trained boxer in
his youth, Hale used to punish the children with his fists, they said,
telling them he was being lenient because he was capable of much worse.

When the crying of the baby annoyed him, several said, Hale would hold
the baby's mouth and nose shut until the baby turned blue.

When Papa was in a rage he would keep them up all night, hitting them on
the head if they nodded off and haranguing about a Scripture they could
not read for themselves. Most were never taught to read.

Some girls said he rubbed up against them in bed and told them it was
God's way.

"I remember how, on my birthday, you held me for a very long time on
your lap," said one young daughter. "That was not good. I have been
trying to get that out of my mind for a very long time."

The children said they were taught that it was OK, even righteous in
God's eyes, to steal from stores and lie and shoot game animals whenever
they had the chance.

They lived in fear, unable to speak up, said 19-year-old Jerusalem Hale
"just like a small mouse is trapped by the glaring eyes and swaying head
of a poisonous snake."

Meanwhile, Hale was served special meals prepared for him. His wife was
beaten if she questioned him and told to call him "Lord."

"We were all helplessly following him to hell," said Kurina Rose Hale.
"Words cannot express how women like me need others to reach out and
help us in our situation."

The older Hale sons, now in their late 20s, cried as they described what
they consider their failure to intervene, or even to understand what was
going on.

"I ask forgiveness for letting these things happen," grimaced Joshua
Hale, 28. "I beat my chest and weep."

The older boys said that as they entered their teens, they experimented
sexually with some siblings, sleeping together in two big beds. They
said they were ashamed now, but had been told nothing of such matters.

When Hale learned what was going on, he ordered his sons to the whipping
barrel, where he drew blood with a leather riding crop and raised welts
a half-inch high, the children said.
"I can't imagine how a father could stand to see his children suffer
like that," said Hosannah, 17.
He told them he did it to punish their sins. But it was worse than that.

The whippings began at the same time that Hale was pushing one of his
daughters to have sex with him. That daughter, the victim of the
criminal charges, was the last to testify Monday.

She said he told her she was "a special comfort sent by God" to him, and
that her cooperation could deliver her brothers and family from the
severe discipline they were receiving.
The victim said she was beaten when she tried to resist, and sometimes
as punishment she was made to beat her young siblings. "All this you did
in the name of God and love."
By complying, he told her, she would be blessed.

"You took for yourself the very thing I held so dear," she said, pausing
to clutch a tissue to her face. "You knew that I wanted so very badly to
be pure."

The victim was one of the few who had learned to read. She tried to look
at the Bible, to see if her father's words were true. He caught her and
beat her harshly for trying to prove him wrong, she said.

After meeting the Buckinghams in late 2004, the children said they began
to sense another way of living as a family. But the darkest hour was to
come, when Hale returned from the Buckinghams with the victim to
McCarthy and sent the boys away.

The victim said her father forced her into a shed, nailed the door shut
and "started beating me with those trained fists." He kept her prisoner
and he raped her, she said. When she finally returned to the family
homestead, a sister said, her face looked like a "black and blue
basketball." A brother said she was made to wear a ski mask.

The family began to stand up to Hale after that. Joshua told him he'd
been deceitful. According to several children, Hale knocked him to the
floor, breaking his nose, then ordered him to say he'd broken it in the

Soon after, the older girls fled the homestead. It wasn't until fall
that family members finally approached state troopers. The victim said
she never imagined that authorities would side with them against their

Since Hale was jailed in late 2005, the family has been living with
another large Christian family, the Buckinghams, in Palmer. The older
children now work, the younger ones are learning to read and write.

Three Hale children have married, and two babies have been born to the

In court, Hale's children told their father they have tried not to hold
bitterness against him. But they begged Judge Donald Hopwood not to let
him out of prison.

Hale is scheduled to give his version of events in court today.


(Note: I deleted portions of the above Journalist writeups and also
rearranged some paragraphs, because they contained portions that I had
already written about in my previous posts.)

Continued in Part 6

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