Longform

FROM THE BIG HOUSE TO GOD'S HOUSE

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But there was never an investigation of the incident. Even though the last line of the police report indicates that the family members were willing to testify in court against Alderdice, when Glendale police asked to interview the child, the parents refused. Alderdice was not questioned--even though Glendale police felt the allegation was valid. False accusations tend to arise out of ideas planted by one parent or another in custody disputes, according to Detective Bruce Foremny of the Glendale Police Department, but rarely occur in alleged assaults from outside the family. "Kids will lie to get out of trouble, but very few kids will lie to get into trouble," he says.

Sergeant Susan Porter of the Phoenix Police Department agrees. "Every case should be put through the test of saying to yourself, 'What does this person have to gain by making this report, and, also, what do they have to lose?' And this girl, it doesn't sound like she had anything to gain by making this report, and at her age, she doesn't know about lawsuits or anything."

Sergeant Porter, however, feels that in such cases, when it comes to interviewing the victim, "You can't take no for an answer." When New Times first inquired about this particular report, the Glendale police attempted to reopen the investigation, but found that the child and her family had moved out of the state.

As Foremny concludes, "Without interviewing a molest victim, we don't have a molest case, we have a report."

Alderdice claimed he never knew the police had been called. "I don't know where it comes from," Alderdice said of the allegation, "and, of course, it's absolutely untrue."

@rule:
@body:Discerning the truth about anything that involves the former First Assembly of God of Glendale is like being on Wheel of Fortune with six vowels and eight consonants exposed and still not being able to read the secret message. The members seem good, God-fearing folk, but they will not be questioned, they maintain, because they need answer only to the Lord.

One thing is clear: The Reverend Philip Sturgeon commands a faithful following that is willing to turn a blind eye to his peculiar escapades and lapses of business logic.

In the early 1980s, Sturgeon decided to trade a paid-for church building on 59th Avenue in Glendale for a five-acre parcel of prime land farther north on Peoria Avenue. There, he intended to remodel a small house on the property and turn it into a chapel, where the 300-member congregation could worship until it could build a new church.

Though Sturgeon portrays the land swap as a unanimous decision on the part of the congregation, his church membership mysteriously dropped from 300 to 16 when the paperwork was final.

"I was setting in my office with boxes of books stacked around me and a stack of letters on the floor that had been dropped through my mail slot during that night or that morning," Sturgeon wrote in a recent letter to Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. "These letters were from members of the church saying how much they loved me, the church, the choir, the music, the teaching, etc.; but the Lord had told them to leave. . . . These letters were all coming from three hundred people who just a few weeks earlier had voted 100 percent to relocate the church."
Perhaps truth is defined by the version of events that history chooses to remember, regardless of what may have happened. The collective memory of Sturgeon's congregation says that the former members "dropped the ball."

The Reverend Leroy Owens, pastor of Victory Assembly of God in Glendale, recalls it differently: "My daughter attended there," Owens says. "[Sturgeon] would call a special business meeting and have all the members there, and they would turn it down," he says, referring to the land swap. "They didn't want to do it. They left before he moved out and sold the church. They saw he was determined to do certain things, so they just left."

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Michael Kiefer