Woman wins $10 million in "cult" case

This article was printed in The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Thursday, January 28, 1993. Geauga County is an exurban area just east of Cleveland.

By Sabrina Eaton
Plain Dealer Reporter

A Geauga County Common Pleas judge yesterday awarded a $10 million default judgment to a Hiram woman who charged that her father and other men raped her as a child during "cult" activities in Geauga and Portage counties.

Geauga County Common Pleas Judge H.F. Indelied issued the judgment yesterday against James West Pou, a retiree who lives in Waynesboro, Miss. Pou did not respond to the lawsuit or to The Plain Dealer's interview requests.

A similar default judgment request against Pou is pending in Portage County Common Pleas Court. The lawsuits contend the abuse occurred in Russell Township, Mantua and Hiram from 1963 to 1971.

The Hiram woman, Jamie Ann Sitko, 37, said she doesn't believe her father has $10 million, but that she sued him "more for the principle of the thing."

"It is more to let people know that even upstanding citizens can be capable of some very harmful acts," Sitko said yesterday. "People need to know that this does happen. If everyone spoke up about it, it would help others in the long run."

Papers filed in the lawsuit stated that in psychotherapy sessions, Sitko "vividly recalled incidents which involved men, including her father, standing in a circle around a fire with hoods, cat's blood, live cats, dead cats, candles, chants and threats of violence, to force her compliance, some of which were carried out."

Sitko's brother, James Douglas Pou, 34, also accused their father of abusing him in a much publicized U.S. Air Force court martial last year, in which he pleaded guilty to bigamy and desertion. He did not make mention of any "cult" activities, however.

James [Douglas] Pou, a highly decorated member of an elite pararescue unit, staged his own disappearance in May 1987 by faking a bicycling accident on the Rio Grande River. He abandoned a wife and two young sons.

He made his way to San Diego, married another woman under an alias, and fathered two children by her before his second wife reported him to Air Force investigators, after learning he had impregnated still another San Diego woman.

The Air Force this month charged him with robbing a bank in Corpus Christi, Texas, of $40,000 in 1988.

At a court martial, Pou blamed his conduct on physical abuse by his father, and said he disappeared because he feared he would also abuse his children. The elder Pou appeared at the court martial and denied allegations of child abuse.

Sitko said yesterday that she had discussed the abuse with her brother, though her brother's memories "don't yet include anything on the 'cult.'"

"Don't yet," she said. How typical. --- sd

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