The FBI unlocked its vault recently and released hundreds of documents related to the Finders and a Tallahassee child abuse case that sparked a bizarre federal investigation into allegations of Satan worship and child pornography involving an eccentric commune in Washington, D.C.
The arrest of the two well-dressed men in suits tending to six motley, bug-bitten children made sensational headlines in 1987 when they were identified as members of The Finders, a secretive commune that based its teachings on the writings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tse.
The Tallahassee Democrat covered the story extensively at the time, and headlines about the strange group that preaches complete passivity in the face of danger spread across newspapers nationwide.
The mysterious Finders organization in Washington, D.C., has been the subject of unproven conspiracy theories for decades, often linked to similar theories involving shadowy government agencies and child sex rings.
It is the top requested topic, according to the FBI’s Vault web page.
Douglas Ammerman and James Michael Holwell were pulled over in a van and arrested in February of 1987 in Tallahassee after witnesses reported seeing them in Myers Park with six scruffy, hungry children between the ages of 2 and 11. After Holwell “fell face down on the ground and refused to stand up” or answer questions, the men were charged with misdemeanor child abuse and held on $100,000.
Unable to locate the mothers, police placed the children into state custody.
Six weeks later, after an investigation that went all the way to D.C., the men were released from custody. The state dropped charges against the men in March.
After receiving at least 500 calls from women claiming to be the mothers of the children, the actual mothers were ultimately found and traveled to Tallahassee to get their children back. One of the mothers decided to stay and raise her child in Tallahassee.
Federal agents concluded there was no evidence of criminal activity, and dropped the case against the Finders.
It would have been swept into the annals of FBI case history, except for a Stuart, Florida, resident named Skip Clements, who had been researching the Finders for years. He claimed the U.S. Customs Service called off the investigation at the behest of the CIA, which he said was using the commune as a front to train agents.
He even convinced at least two members of Congress to look into it, and it sparked a Justice Department investigation. Both congressmen have since died.