Free Love Religious Sect

This story first aired on January 27, 2005

Nearly two decades after it officially renounced adult-child sex in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, there are still questions about a Christian sect founded in the late 1960s with thousands of members around the world.

Last year, Ricky Rodriguez, the one-time heir apparent to The Family, stabbed to death his former nanny and then shot himself dead. He left a chilling videotape alleging the sexual abuse he had suffered as a child at the hands of members of the group was too much to bear.

On the tape obtained by "Primetime Live," the 29-year-old can be seen assembling weapons. "It's a need for revenge," he told the camera. "What about the thousands of us who have been f---ed over literally?"

Others from Rodriguez's generation in the group say they have suffered too. Celeste Jones, who left the group in 2001, said when she was 5 and 6, "I also was subject to sexual abuse -- adults teaching me mainly to fondle them."

The Family spokeswoman Claire Borowik says while she is deeply saddened by the murder/suicide, the group was not responsible for Rodriguez's death. She says she does not believe that he was a victim of sexual abuse: "It wasn't really an issue of sex. There was a liberal ... liberality that existed in some homes, not most homes."

Borowik also noted that compounds belonging to the organization have been subject to police raids, but no member has ever been convicted of sexual abuse.

"We live in a violent culture," she said. Rodriguez had fallen under the spell of forces opposed to her organization, she said, and the murder-suicide was intended as "something that would bring down The Family altogether."

The Story of Davidito

However, it's hard to refute that Rodriguez grew up in a sexually charged atmosphere. The group founded as Children of God promoted a strange brew of Biblical prophecy and sexual freedom.

Its charismatic leader, Moses David Berg, once said: "I practice what I preach! And I preach sex, boys and girls." Berg died of natural causes in 1994.

As a child, Rodriguez was idolized as a prophet in the sexual revolution, and was the subject of a manual the group published on child-rearing, "The Story of Davidito."

Many of the pages were full of sexual photos and suggestive captions, mostly written by Berg. One read: "God created boys and girls able to have children by about the age of 12 years of age. My God! Now he's going to advocate childhood sex."

Some of the pictures show Rodriguez with Angela Smith, the woman he killed. But John, a former high-ranking member of the group who asked ABC News not to use his last name, says he thinks Rodriguez only killed Smith because he couldn't find his mother, Karen Zerby, the group's current leader. In his tape, Rodriguez voiced allegations that his mother condoned sexual abuse in her own home. "My own mother. What an evil little c--t. Goddammit. How can you do that to little kids?" he said.

Rodriguez killed Smith on Jan. 8, 2005 after inviting her to dinner at his Tucson, Ariz., apartment. Then he drove several hours into California, and sometime after midnight, pulled into a parking lot in the city of Blythe. He fired a single round, ending his life.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Oscar de la Renta and Oprah Winfrey attend the Costume Institute Gala Benefit to celebrate the opening of the American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, May 8, 2010, in New York City.
Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage/Getty Images
PHOTO: Up in Ash: Mount Sinabung Erupting
Tibt Nangin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
PHOTO: Firefighters rescue a woman who got stuck in a chimney in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Ventura County Fire Department
PHOTO: Apple Pay is demonstrated at Apple headquarters on Oct. 16, 2014 in Cupertino, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo