Children Long for 'Big El'
Nov. 15, 1988
SALEM, Ore. (AP) _ Many of the 53 children removed from a home operated by the Ecclesia Athletic Association said Monday they're eager to return to the farmhouse where an 8-year-old girl was beaten to death and that they miss the man they call ''Big El.''
''Nobody's as nice to us as Big El,'' said a 13-year-old boy, referring to Eldridge Broussard Jr., 36, leader of the Los Angeles-based group and father of the slain girl.
The children were taken from a sparsely furnished farmhouse east of Portland following the Oct. 14 beating death of Dayna Lorea Broussard. Juvenile authorities claim many of the Ecclesia children were administered ritualistic beatings of up to 800 strokes with electrical cords or paddles.
During brief interviews with the children Monday, reporters were prevented from asking about their life in Ecclesia. None of the children's names was revealed.
The 22 Ecclesia boys, ages 3 to 14, live together in a dormitory on the MacLaren School campus in Woodburn, while 15 girls, ranging in age from 4 to 16, are living in a four-bedroom, ranch-style house at Hillcrest School. The remainder of the children are in foster care.
The farmhouse was used by Ecclesia members to train inner-city children in athletics as part of Broussard's dream of a role in a future Olympics in Africa.
The children will remain in state custody until criminal proceedings are completed against four adult Ecclesia members scheduled to be tried Dec. 12 on first-degree manslaughter charges.
Custody proceedings will begin after the trial to determine the children's fate.
Several of the children have had visits from their parents, but they have not been allowed to talk to Broussard, said Les Busch, who has designed a program to care for the Ecclesia children.
Broussard's frequent television appearances and news stories about the case have been kept from the children.
''We just feel it's too much for them to handle at this point,'' he said.
Psychiatric evaluations are scheduled this week for most of the children, Busch added.
Staff members say the children have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, including anxiety, bed-wetting and irregular sleeping patterns, said Busch.
Dayna's death has been discussed with the children, he said. Several of the older girls wanted to attend the girl's funeral, and the boys decorated their Halloween cake with a candle lighted to remember their playmate, who would have been 9 on Oct. 31.
''We're trying to establish a safe, secure shelter situation for these kids,'' said Busch, head of the Children's Psychiatric Day Treatment Center at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.
''I'd rather be with my coach. Even though he makes us work out, I still don't mind,'' said one 8-year-old girl.
''Nobody's even close to being as nice as Big El,'' added a 14-year-old boy.
Several girls complained they had been in state custody for too long.
''They lied to us,'' said one girl. ''They told us we'd be here overnight and it's been one month and one day.''