Harrisburg Rapist to Be Released from Prison

By Carrie Cassidy
The Patriot-News
August 9, 2008

She lived in a world where parents willingly gave up their children to a man who declared himself "The Light of the World."

A world where children were beaten for letting anyone but fellow cult members see them, and their genitals were pierced with a lock to be controlled by this so-called prophet. It was a world unimaginable to most people, but it was her reality for seven years, from the time she was 5 until her mother broke free of George Feigley's grip.

Three decades later, that world still haunts her through dreams occasionally featuring Feigley and his flock of followers. She was shocked to learn from a reporter that the man who beat her, made her call him "Master," and photographed her in graphic sexual poses would be released from prison this week.

"He's not a man who should be out with society," said the woman, who asked to be called "J." The Patriot-News has a policy of not identifying the victims of sexual crimes. "He preys on — at least he did — the people who believed in him."

And he could do it again, said J, other victims and prosecutors.

George Feigley

On Friday, Feigley, 68, will leave the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands, a minimum-security prison near Somerset, a free man. He will not be on probation or parole, and he will not have to comply with Megan's Law when he returns to his home near 13th and Derry streets in Harrisburg.

He will have served the maximum time to which he was sentenced for rape convictions in 1975, and subsequent convictions for escapes and conspiracy to commit a sex crime while in prison.

The state Board of Probation and Parole has turned down Feigley's requests every year since he became eligible in 1990. In its March 1996 denial, the board said Feigley had failed to benefit from a treatment program for sex offenders.

"You are a serious risk to the safety of others, particularly children," the board said in denying his request, which was opposed by the prison, the district attorney and the judge.

The board reaffirmed that decision, based on those factors, in 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001.

Sandra Feigley said she and her husband did not want to be interviewed for this story. But she released a statement saying her husband has had several heart attacks and is in a wheelchair, and that their family has been torn apart.

Feigley, who was a rare-book dealer, denied that the Neo-American Church he started at his Harrisburg home was a sex cult. He also denied abusing the girls and told a newspaper reporter in March 1984 that his conviction and charges filed later against the women in his group were part of a conspiracy to destroy the religion.

His victims and his prosecutors, however, have the scars and the evidence to prove otherwise.

Basing his description on personality tests given to Feigley after his conviction, a psychologist described Feigley as a "very bright, imaginative, self-centered, self-seeking, grandiose, highly motivated, but confused man" who was seemingly guilty of a "neurotic need for continuing support and love."

Words written by Feigley, whose IQ is above average, to his flock of at least 20 show the power he wielded even from prison:

"I require total devotion to my desires. You may not have a will nor desire of your own which do not project my wishes. I expect this complete commitment from my wives, my concubines and my children ... Make yourselves my delight. If there is discord among you, I will have you whipped."

He concluded the letter by saying, "I love you. May my peace abide with you. G."

Police learned about the extent of Feigley's control from one of the children who experienced it.

Feigley started to abuse her at 4 years old, when her mother turned her over to his group, the woman told police in 1995. He had sex with the children or beat them whenever he wanted, she said.

When he was in prison, his followers made printouts from a copier of the children's hands, and if they weren't wearing the ring he gave them, they'd be in trouble.

"I just know that I feared him," the woman, then 23, told police.

Feigley wielded fear like a conductor's baton. He forced the children to obey his commands for sex with him and other cult members, often with onlookers and to be photographed using sexual devices.

One of the cult children contacted for this story declined to be interviewed out of fear, even though only a few cult members, including Feigley's wife, remain.

Some of the cult children, who are now grown, have moved away from the Harrisburg area, but one, a girl known as "Sunflower," continues to associate with them.

Fear is one way psychopaths like Charles Manson and Jim Jones keep a stronghold on the people they victimize, said Mark Safarik, who spent 22 years as an investigator in the FBI's behavioral sciences unit.

Safarik can't say for certain whether Feigley is a psychopath, because a person must be tested for that, but he concluded after reading about the case that Feigley possesses many psychopathic traits.

What makes Feigley so dangerous, Safarik said, is his charismatic personality and his ability to identify those, particularly those with low self-esteem, who would be receptive to him. Then he grooms them.

People like Feigley can't be changed in prison, he said.

"In fact, psychopaths get better in prison. They learn what they're supposed to do and the responses they're supposed to give," Safarik said. "When they release him ... he'll say

all the right things, but underneath it all, he'll go back to the same behavior. He'll turn up again."

There are several public bus stops in the block where Feigley plans to live, at least for a bit, after his release from prison.

A couple who live not far from the home at Derry and 13th streets often walk with their 3-year-old daughter to the one closest to 14th Street.

They were surprised to learn that a convicted sex offender would be moving into the neighborhood.

They did not want to give their names for the story, citing fear for children's safety, and neither did the grandmother, who was holding the hand of her 3-year-old granddaughter and pushing a stroller carrying one a year younger.

The woman, who said she grew up in the neighborhood, said it scares her.

"We have enough to worry about with these young kids doing what they're doing these days without having someone like that living here," she said.

After hearing that Feigley would not be supervised after he leaves prison, three men sitting at a concrete table off 13th and Derry streets wondered how the children who run up and down the block can be protected.

Dauphin County authorities said they are trying to find a way to protect the community from a man they can no longer keep behind bars.

First Deputy District Attorney Fran Chardo said his office is "coming up with a game plan" that he declined to discuss. Being released from prison doesn't mean Feigley's no longer one of the county's most notorious criminals.

"His ardent belief that there is nothing wrong about the unspeakable criminal acts and the fanaticism of his followers set him apart," Chardo said.

J sees hints of the same maniacal thinking she grew up with in the postings on a Web site the Feigleys started in 1996.

The site has postings that rail against prisons and the prison system's staff.

Other entries talk about sex, including one entry written by G.G. Stoctay, an alias, that says: "The injury done to children by sexual molestation is trivial. In most cases, the sexual molestation is little more than "education" or, at worst, annoyance. ... The men who are prosecuted as sexual offenders show by far the greatest injuries, of course."

Feigley's site advocates abolishing all sex crimes, except those that cause "excessive injury."

A lifetime of living with pain and fear should be considered "excessive," J said.

She was still under Feigley's psychological hold in 1986, a year after she and her mother left the cult. She started to heal then by removing the head scarf she was supposed to wear as Feigley's "Nazarene."

J showed Feigley that he no longer controlled her by attending his sentencing hearing in 1995. She and another of Feigley's victims purposely sat behind the prosecutor's side of the Dauphin County courtroom to show him that she had the power. He looked more like an old, weak man than the monster she remembers from her childhood.

Since then, she has tried to put her life with the cult behind her. Even her closest friends don't know about the extent of the abuse she endured. But she's happy with the life she has made for herself.

"Eventually, I realized ... the past is the past. You have to get over the bad things that happened to you," she said. "I'm taking responsibility for myself because that's true power."


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