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Tracking terror

All in all, it’s been a good year for Christina Wolfe.

In May, Wolfe’s 24-year-old son Andrew was extracted from a small Christian group — some would call it a cult — headed by a self-proclaimed envoy of God named Feroze Golwalla (see "Bob Pardon to the Rescue," News and Features, June 27). Things got even better for the Wolfe family in June, when Andrew’s twin brother, Benjamin, was removed from the same group. "I cannot put into words how wonderful this is," says Wolfe. "It’s such a relief. A mother could never describe how good this feels."

Spearheaded by local anti-cult activist Bob Pardon, the extraction of Andrew and Benjamin from Golwalla’s group liberated them from a situation that was, as they tell it, the stuff of nightmares — beatings, psychological torture, and depravations the family would rather not reveal in public. Today, the brothers are recovering at Meadow Haven, Pardon’s Massachusetts-based rehabilitation facility. And yet Wolfe is well aware that her boys’ ordeal is far from over. "I’m scared at how much they still have to go through," she says. "They suffered terribly. They have to put their lives back together."

Wolfe’s relief has been further mitigated by the knowledge that Golwalla is on the loose in Texas, possibly luring more youngsters into his fold. "I’ve been badgering, badgering, badgering," she says, "calling around to different government people." Earlier this month, Wolfe’s efforts seemed to be paying off, when authorities in Maryland — which is where the worst abuse has allegedly taken place — informed her that felony-assault charges were about to be filed against Golwalla. "They were going to pick him up," she says, "and have him extradited to Maryland."

In a bizarre twist, there was even word that the Office of Homeland Security had shown an interest in Golwalla, a native of Pakistan. "The Maryland State Police wondered whether he was part of a bigger group," says Wolfe. "When they asked [group members] if Feroze had wanted them to tie a bomb around their waists, would they agree, four of them said yes. No one would ever suspect these all-American kids if they walked into an airport. Is this guy making terrorists out of these kids?"

Apparently not. Not only does Homeland Security seem to have lost interest in Golwalla, Wolfe says, but she recently learned that he was no longer subject to felony charges. "They were dropped and changed to second-degree assault," she explains, "which meant that they couldn’t extradite him back to Maryland." Robert Hargis, an investigator at the Maryland State Attorney’s Office, says that the charges against Golwalla were lessened after attorneys conducted a probable-cause review. "He’s wanted for misdemeanor [assault]," Hargis adds, "and we don’t extradite for misdemeanors from the state of Texas."

Wolfe is understandably upset. "This is ridiculous," she says. "This man almost killed my kids. We found out he’s actively recruiting at Dallas Bible University in Texas and there’s nothing we can do about it. This is such a turn for the worse, I can’t believe it. It’s a joke. What does he have to do, kill somebody?"

Golwalla, reached on his cell phone at an undisclosed location, says he has "no idea" why he came to the attention of the law in the first place. Indeed, Golwalla has long insisted that any assault charges against him are completely false. "I don’t think that I would like to talk about that," he says. "But I don’t agree with those allegations." Questions about possible homeland-security concerns are met with silence.

Bob Pardon, meanwhile, believes allegations of international intrigue are beside the point. "Feroze is a predator," Pardon says. "I don’t think the guy’s a terrorist. I think he’s a monster. I think he needs to be thrown in jail." For the time being, at least, the possibility of this outcome seems remote.

Issue Date: October 3 - 9, 2003
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