from sarafina - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
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'A trail of broken minds and bodies'
January 26, 2005
BY BEN FOX
BLYTHE, Calif. -- The crewcut young man stares into the video camera and recites a plan to kill his mother, her husband -- and anybody else affiliated with The Family International, a church with roots in the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Between expletives, he vows revenge for physical and sexual abuse he claims was inflicted on him, his sister and ''thousands'' of other children.
'Seen how ugly humans can get'
''Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people,'' says Ricky Rodriguez, who loads bullets into a handgun and admiringly strokes a hunting knife. ''I've seen how ugly humans can get.''
Hours later, Rodriguez -- groomed to inherit leadership of The Family -- would stab to death Angela Smith, a former member, and shoot himself in the head. The murder-suicide has refocused attention on a group accused of sexual, physical and psychological abuse.
''They've left a trail of broken minds and bodies,'' said Daniel Roselle, a former member who helps edit a Web site where ex-members post allegations.
A church spokeswoman, Claire Borowik, acknowledged that some adults may have had sex with children before criticism prompted a prohibition in 1986. But Borowik denied allegations of routine abuse and described the suicide of Rodriguez, 29, and his killing of Smith, 51, as a tragic aberration.
'Prince' sought revenge
The Family was founded in the 1960s by a self-styled prophet named David Berg. He created a secretive, authoritarian network of communes. Members cut ties with their families and were encouraged to have sex with each other and with strangers to attract new members.
Rodriguez was designated ''prince,'' the Family's future leader, by his mother Karen Zerby and Berg, his stepfather. In Web postings, Rodriguez said his preparation as an adolescent included forced sex every day with different girls and women. In the video, he said those experiences give him nightmares. ''There's this need that I have. ... It's a need for revenge,'' he said.
His goal, he said, was to kidnap Smith and force her to reveal the whereabouts of his mother. Rodriguez killed Smith in his Tucson, Ariz., home Jan. 8, then drove to Blythe. Before his suicide, he mailed copies of the video, police said. AP
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