Pair starve `Second Christ' baby

Andrew Gumbel
Tuesday 06 October 1998 23:02

A YOUNG Utah couple who snatched their malnourished infant son from state custody in the belief that he was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ reached the end of a two-week journey across country yesterday after federal agents found them half-freezing to death in the wilds of southern Montana.

Christopher and Kyndra Fink were found camping in sub-zero temperatures in the Beartooth Mountains, with their 21-month-old son, David, and a newborn named Elijah. Kyndra Fink told the FBI after her arrest that she had not eaten for two days. She was unable to walk and had survived only by huddling close to her husband and children.

The Finks became convinced David was what they called a Christ Child and fed him only on watermelon and lettuce, maintaining that this was the way to keep him pure. By the time David's family admitted him to a children's hospital in Salt Lake City last month, he weighed no more than 16 pounds, the average for a baby a third of his age.

David was taken into state custody and was due to be handed to foster- parents. But the Finks had other ideas, and on 19 September they snatched him during a supervised visit. Security camera footage shows Mr Fink dashing out of the hospital where his wife, then eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was waiting for him with the car engine running.

A nurse who chased them grabbed the door of the moving car and was dragged for about 35 feet.

That was when the hunt for the couple started. There were sightings in both Utah and Wyoming, leading to a futile police search of the Laramie Peak district in the Rockies.

It appears the Finks arrived in Montana after about four days and settled in a forest clearing near the remote town of Nye. Mrs Fink gave birth to Elijah the day they arrived, presumably without medical help. According to the FBI, which co-ordinated the manhunt, the family lived off muesli and potatoes.

They were eventually spotted by two locals who were out hunting elk at the weekend. The hunters thought nothing of what they had seen until they watched an appeal for the Finks' whereabouts on television on Sunday night. The following day, a sheriff's deputy and a game warden found the Finks' car abandoned in the car park of a McDonald's.

Mr Fink was walking home on a country road close by, apparently unable to restart the car after a foray for supplies. He eventually agreed to show police where his family was camped, a spot so remote that they had to cover the last few miles on foot and horseback. His wife and children were then flown to hospital while he was taken into custody in Yellowstone County jail.

The clue to the Finks' misguided behaviour lies in their strange religious beliefs. Mr Fink was influenced first by his parents, both of whom are roving ministers, and then by his exposure to a variety of religious groups, particularly the Mormons who are based in Utah's capital, Salt Lake City.

In a treatise posted on the Internet, Mr Fink maintained he had received personal revelations from God and expounded his theory that the road to salvation involves eating nothing besides "starchless fruits and vegetables and leafy greens".

Not only did he force his regimen on David, he also refused to let his son touch the ground, again for supposed reasons of purity. Until his admittance to hospital, the boy spent most of his life in his mother's arms.

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