The woman considered the common-law wife of evangelist Tony Alamo told jurors at his sex-crimes trial Tuesday that she thought the wedding rings in his bedroom were gifts, and she didn't notice that younger and younger girls were living with them.
At times, it appeared that Sharon Alamo was reading from a notebook she took to the stand with her, and the judge told her to rely on her memory. When lawyers took a break to confer, Tony Alamo turned his chair toward the witness stand and gave her a thumbs-up.
Tony Alamo, 74, is accused of taking five young girls across state lines for sex between 1994 and 1995 after "marrying" them. Defense lawyers say prosecutors targeted Alamo because the government is anti-Christian. Alamo, who has pleaded not guilty, has also said the Vatican is behind his troubles.
Sharon Alamo, 50, acknowledged to jurors that she had seen young women wearing wedding rings around her house.
"Didn't you notice the girls moving into the defendant's residence ... were getting younger and younger?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Fowlkes asked.
"No, I didn't," she replied.
She said she believed the collection of wedding rings found in Alamo's bedroom were gifts to the ministry. Prosecution witnesses have testified that rings were given to underage girls when Alamo "married" them.
Sharon Alamo said she never formally married Alamo but said she lives with him, took his name and conducted business as his wife. She also said she allowed Alamo to call her "a weasel, a rotten bastard and a liar" to help him get his anger out.
"We were together for a while but decided to separate but still live and work together," Sharon Alamo said.
As she spoke, Alamo muttered to his lawyers, "They don't understand it's a spiritual marriage."
Sharon Alamo told jurors she held a number of properties in her name for the benefit of the church. The IRS seized many of Tony Alamo's assets in the 1990s for the payment of back taxes and he served about four years in prison for tax evasion.
When Sharon Alamo stepped away from the stand, Tony Alamo turned his chair and said, "Bye, baby" when she passed by.
Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Alamo earlier Tuesday after playing recordings of telephone calls he made while being held before trial. On one, he told a girl who questioned one of his orders that he still ruled the Arkansas compound.
"Just because I'm in jail, you'll find out that I'm still in charge. OK, kid? You understand?" Alamo told the girl, who is not among those he is accused of abusing.
Earlier in the tape, he threatened to kick the girl out of the community if she didn't obey.
"You either have to do what you're supposed to do or get out," Alamo said. When she began to protest, he interrupted her by saying, "Shut up. Shut your face. Clean up your stinking mess."
Over four days of graphic testimony, five women said they "married" Alamo as teens or preteens and were sexually assaulted by him. They said they traveled to other states for sex with him or responded to his call and returned to Arkansas and had sex with him.
Sharon Alamo said from the stand that the trips with the girls were for legitimate church purposes.
Later, she said her romantic relationship with Alamo was "over," but wouldn't elaborate.
"My relationship with him is between myself and God and Tony," she said. "I know you want me to label it but I just can't do that."
Alamo has said the girls, part of his estimated 100-200 followers, were traveling to help spread the ministry's teachings. His apocalyptic tracts outline his hatred of the Vatican and his feared "one-world government" as well as his belief in flying saucers.
Alamo told reporters on the way to court Tuesday that he planned to take the stand, despite his lawyers' advice against it.
Each of the 10 counts against Alamo is punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.