Three teenagers have been removed from a remote New Mexico compound run by a self-described messiah in a new case involving a religious sect and allegations of sex abuse.
The three teens, a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl, were taken into custody over a three-day period starting April 22. They had been living at a compound called Strong City, home to the Lord of Our Righteousness Church.
"The state police are investigating what has happened there," Peter Olsen, public safety spokesman in New Mexico, confirmed to ABC News. "State police were there to make sure the kids were safely removed and that there was no trouble."
Romaine Serna, a spokeswoman for the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, said that the state is looking into the best options for the children. "We have three children in custody," she said. "The information we have is there are other young adults residing at the compound."
Child welfare officials will work with the district attorney in Union County, N.M., as the criminal investigation continues. "We're conducting a thorough assessment," Serna told ABC News. "We did receive information alleging inappropriate contact with minors on the compound."
Serna would not say who provided her department with the tip, but said it came from a "very reliable source."
"From a child protective standpoint, our concern is the parental role where the parents, either by neglect or active participation, abandoned or neglected a child," she said.
It's not the first time police have been to Strong City. The FBI, state police, local law enforcement and social workers went to the compound, run by sect leader Michael Travesser and his followers, in 2002 when rumors circulated that the group was planning a mass suicide. No suicides took place, no arrests were made, and no children were taken into custody, according to state police and child protective services.
In the current case, Serna said, concern is focused more on the parents of the teens taken into custody than the group's leader.
Travesser, who also goes by the name Wayne Bent, broke from the Seven Day Adventist church in 1987 to form his Lord of Our Righteousness Church. On the group's Web site, Travesser, 66, describes being annointed the messiah by God in 2000, shortly after moving to the New Mexico property in the state's northeastern corner.
Travesser, who wears a beard and in some photographs flowing robes, is not granting interviews requests, but along with his followers, he is using his Web site to criticize efforts by authorities to investigate the sect.
"No sex acts with teenagers have ever happened here, but the satanic forces of the media continue to concoct their witches brew in order to destroy the message that was sent to you from heaven," Travesser posted on the site, along with video shot by church members showing the first of the teens taken from the compound by officials.
"There was never any child molestation, or adult molestation by anyone, including myself," he wrote. "There has never been 'sex with minors' or anything remotely approaching that, and, I was never the initiator in any of the events."
Travesser describes the media in a post Wednesday as an "arm of the beast" that lives on "lies and hallucinations." "I will speak with the media when they let my children go, permanently," he wrote.