'Papa Pilgrim' pleads no contest to rape, incest

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A man known as "Papa Pilgrim," the patriarch of an Alaska wilderness family, agreed on Thursday to a no-contest plea on charges of rape, kidnapping and incest.

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Now, prosecutors will likely consolidate the charges against Robert Hale, 66, and recommend a 14-year prison sentence.

Hale entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, his prison clothes hanging from his gaunt frame. He complained of pain in his knee and ticked off a list of medications he is taking, including insulin and painkillers.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Glennallen.

Four years ago, Hale moved his family of 17 to a homestead near McCarthy, saying he wanted to raise his children in a Bible-centered world away from civilization.

There, he got into widely publicized standoff with rangers in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park over an access road he bulldozed to his property.

In October 2005, he was indicted on 30 counts of rape, incest, coercion, kidnapping and assault for crimes against one of his daughters, committed between 1998 and 2005.

He ran from law enforcement for two weeks before he was taken into custody.

His many children and members of another large Christian family, the Buckinghams, attended the hearing on Thursday.

No one from Hale's family wanted to talk publicly. They have said previously they are not angry at their father, but do want him to be held accountable for his actions.

Hale watched family members as they left the courtroom, telling them, "Family, don't turn your backs on God."

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