Sex Charges for Leader of Doomsday Sect

Self-described Messiah is arrested after state removes teens from N.M. compound.

ByABC News
May 6, 2008, 1:04 PM

May 6, 2008— -- A self-described Messiah was arrested on sex charges involving minors two weeks after state officials took three teenagers from his New Mexico compound amid allegations of sexual abuse, authorities in New Mexico confirmed to ABC News today.

"State police and criminal agents are interviewing Wayne Bent right now," Peter Olsen told ABC News.

Olsen had few details beyond Bent's initial arrest, which happened without incident sometime this morning at Strong City, Bent's compound in New Mexico's rural northeastern corner.

Chief Scott Julian of the Clayton Police Department confirmed that Bent was charged with three counts of criminal sexual contact with a minor and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He is being held at the Clayton-Union County Consolidated Detention Facility, Strong confirmed to ABC News.

Bent, who in his writings also goes by the name of Michael Travesser, is leader of a doomsday sect called Lord of Our Righteousness Church.

Three teens, a 16-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl, were taken into custody by state officials during a three-day period starting April 22.

Romaine Serna, a spokeswoman for the state's Children, Youth and Families Department, told ABC News last week that the state is looking into the best options for the children. Serna declined to comment on today's arrest, citing a judge's gag order in the case.

Child welfare officials were working with the district attorney in Union County, N.M. "We're conducting a thorough assessment," Serna said at the time. "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."

By his own admission, sex with his followers is an aspect of Bent's church. He wrote in a Sept. 11, 2007, Web site post that he had sex with three women, including his son's wife, at God's prompting. He also wrote about virgins visiting him in his bed but claims he declined their requests for sex.

Bent's group is featured in the National Geographic program "Inside a Cult," scheduled to air this week. In the program, he acknowledged lying naked with virgin followers and describes nakedness as "another symbol of our relationship to God."

Prudence Welch spent 15 years as a member of Bent's group. She fled in December 2005. She said that she did not believe Bent had sex with virgins but that he did exert mental abuse and he did take the wives of other men as his own. "Pretty much all marriages were somewhat on hold," Welch told "Good Morning America" last week.

John Sayer, another former Bent follower, told The Associated Press that Bent "was supposed to sleep" with his two teen daughters. He took his family and left, but one of the girls returned on her own and is among the three teens taken into custody last week, he said.

The recent string of visits by authorities is not the first time that law enforcement has descended on Strong City. The FBI, state police, local law enforcement and social workers went to the compound 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.