A Collection of News Articles regarding Ricky Rodriguez
Jan 2005

A Collection of News Articles
re: Ricky Rodriguez

articles 11-20

Rage turns to vengeance against 'Family'
Anguished ex-cult member decried years of abuse before killing 'molester,' himself

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Ricky Rodriguez was exhausted, scared, frantic. He'd just fled his Tucson apartment, leaving behind the body of 51-year-old Angela Smith. He'd stabbed her three times and slit her throat.

As a baby, the 29-year-old Rodriguez had been christened "Davidito," the young prince and future prophet of the Children of God -- a freewheeling religious sect founded in the late 1960s by Oakland native David "Moses" Berg.

But heading west into the desert last Saturday night in his Chevy Cavalier, all Rodriguez could think about was whether to kill himself. Or someone else.

He pulled out his cell phone.

At Elixcia Manumel's Seattle apartment, the phone rang. She was not surprised to hear the drowning voice of her husband on the other line. It had been only a matter of time, she told The Chronicle, before Rodriguez committed suicide.

Rodriguez had disavowed the Children of God, now called the Family, five years ago, but he could not escape his own demons. His mother had set up the toddler for sex acts with his nannies -- all part of her being a missionary for the international evangelical sex cult.

The former "Jesus baby" blamed his mother and was obsessed with revenge. On a Web site for former Family members, he proclaimed: "Something has to be done about these child molesters."

Angela Smith, a former nanny of Rodriguez and confidante of his mother, seemed to be an easy target.

"Don't let anyone ever tell you that taking someone else's life is easy. It's not," Rodriguez told his wife on the phone. "It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life."

His wife sobbed.

"I miss you so much. Come die with me," Rodriguez begged her. "All I ever wanted in life was to be loved."

During the spiritual counterculture of the 1960s, Berg embraced a strange brew of evangelical Christianity, radical politics and free love.

By the late 1970s, his secretive cult, the Children of God, would be known as the Family, an "international Christian ministry" with thousands of members living in communes and missionary organizations scattered around the world.

In Berg's search for new converts, he encouraged many female followers to expand the "law of love," which promoted "sexual sharing" among members. They were sent forth into the world as "sacred prostitutes."

They called it "flirty fishing," after Jesus of Nazareth's call that his followers become "fishers of men."

Rodriguez was the only son of Karen "Maria David" Zerby, the current prophetess and spiritual leader of the Family International. Zerby was an early convert to the Children of God who became sexually involved with Berg in 1969.

According to several former members, Rodriguez's biological father was a Spaniard named "Carlos," one of many "flirty fishing" recruits who did not stick around long after their initial encounter with Children of God missionaries.

But that didn't stop Berg from taking Ricky as his own spiritual son when the boy was born in 1975. Berg proclaimed the infant "Davidito" and anointed him the future prophet and spiritual leader of the Children of God.

"Davidito was almost like a mythological creature when we were growing up, '' said Jonathan Thompson, who was born into the cult two years after Ricky. "We were given comics and story books with prophecies about how he would one day take over the world as one of the two witnesses written about in the Book of Revelation.''

For his entire life, Rodriguez had lived in the secretive inner circle that clustered around his mother and Berg. They were always on the move -- Greece, Spain, the Philippines.

Most of the sect's thousands of members never knew where the leadership was located. They communicated with their far-flung flock through a series of missives entitled "Mo letters" and "Mama's Jewels."

Former members say there was rampant sexual activity in Berg's inner circle among adults, teenagers, children and even toddlers.

Some of that sexual fondling was described in a Children of God publication, "The Story of Davidito," which was given to adults and children as an activity to emulate.

One scene describes sexual activity between the 20-month-old Rodriguez and another one of his nannies.

Other pages show pictures of "Davidito" lying in bed with naked teenage girls.

"We were sexually abused from a very young age,'' said a former "playmate" of Rodriguez who has left the group. "It was a lot sicker than they wrote about in the book. It was very morbid. We were the guinea pigs of our era."

Rodriguez was a bit older when Berg, his spiritual father, came up with the idea of "Teen Training."

Young teenage girls selected on a rotating basis would be sent to the boy's room for sex.

"Of course, I didn't have to have my arm twisted for that,'' Rodriguez would write years later. "But I must say it was a bit awkward -- especially since I was much younger than most of them were, and I could tell that a couple of them were uncomfortable with it.''

Rodriguez was about to turn 21 when he met his future wife, Manumel. This time she was the younger one, age 16, and one of the growing army of second- generation members of the Children of God.

"We clicked right away," said Manumel, who went by the name "Nicole" when she was in the Family. "We knew we were different than everyone else. He took me in his arms and said he would take me away."

And that's exactly what he did. In 2000, Rodriguez could no longer handle being "Davidito." He had to escape.

Rodriguez and Manumel tried to settle down in Seattle, but their marriage wasn't working.

"It was hard for Rick to be with me," Manumel sad. "I was going to medical school, and it was hard for him to see me doing so well. I had found a way to move on with my life. He just couldn't do it.''

Rodriguez moved to Tucson, where he was trying to get his life back together. But according to Manumel, who is now a nurse, and others who knew him, he was determined to get back at his mother, his nannies and others he blamed for his early sexual abuse.

According to Manumel, Rodriguez had not seen his mother since 2000, when "The Unit" -- as the inner circle was called -- had landed on the southern coast of Portugal. By this time, Berg had died.

Rodriguez began meeting with other disgruntled second-generation members of the Family, and writing postings on their Web site, www.movingon.org.

"Someone needs to put an end to it," Rodriguez wrote in an Aug. 14, 2004, posting, ominously titled "Still Around."

"Because only then can we feel some semblance of justice."

His opportunity for "justice" came when Rodriguez learned that one of the nannies in the "Book of Davidito" was staying in Tucson.

She was Angela Smith, just 18 years old when she joined the Children of God in the early 1970s.

In the book, she is photographed with the toddler prophet. In another photo, she lies naked and seductive in a bathtub with another of the child's teenage nannies.

According to several former members, Smith served in recent years as the personal secretary of Rodriguez's mother, Zerby.

Smith also was on the board of several organizations with ties to the Family, including the Family Care Foundation, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation in the San Diego area. She was also on the board of Elder Haven, a Tucson nursing home run by some of Zerby's relatives.

According to police, Rodriguez learned that Smith was coming to Tucson for an Elder Haven board meeting, and he arranged to meet her for dinner.

"She was the first person he had access to,'' said Manumel, Rodriguez's wife. "He wanted people closer to his mom, but Angela just came along. He wanted to get other people, but he was just too exhausted. Angela was (his mother's) eyes and ears.''

Police in Blythe (Riverside County) found Rodriguez's body parked in the driveway of the Palo Verde Irrigation District, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Authorities called the last number on the dead man's cell phone. Elixcia Manumel answered. She suggested that someone go over and check out Rodriguez's Tucson apartment.

On Sunday morning in Tucson, homicide Detective Benjamin Jimenez drove over to Rodriguez's apartment on North Los Altos Avenue. Smith was dead on the floor.

It was a murder-suicide, former Family members say, spurred by the haunting echoes of a life wrecked by sexual, psychological and religious abuse.

On Friday, a video that Rodriguez made the night before he killed Smith surfaced in which he displays his weapons and talks about the abuse he and other kids suffered in the Children of God. "Unfortunately," said one defector who saw the tape, "there's a rallying cry of sorts for others to 'take out' their perps."

Attempts to reach Angela Smith's family were unsuccessful. The Family keeps secret the whereabouts of Rodriguez's mother, and officials at its Washington office did not return phone calls.

But in a written statement, Claire Borowik, a spokeswoman for the Family International, said Smith's "memory has been slandered by individuals who never met her, nor knew Ricky Rodriguez throughout his entire childhood.''

After leaving the Family in 2000, the statement said, Rodriguez "became estranged from his mother" and "began to manifest violent tendencies.''

"In searching for a motive for this tragic crime," Borowik said, "journalists should take care to not casually write off Angela's death and justify the actions of an obviously disturbed young man."

Borowik goes on to say that "Family leadership officially addressed ... questionable past actions of individuals regarding discipline, education or sexual misconduct," adding that "apologies were published" and "Ricky Rodriguez received ample financial and emotional support to assist him in his transition."

Yet in his August posting on www.movingon.org, Rodiguez made it clear that his transition to the real world was not going well.

"No matter how much longer I live, the first 25 years of my life will always haunt me,'' he wrote. "I was so brainwashed with 25 years of s -- that I had no idea which end was up. I just knew that I had to get away from my mom. ''

E-mail Don Lattin at dlattin@sfchronicle.com.

Sect rebuts claims in murder
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.13.2005

By Becky Pallack

A religious sect is disputing claims made by friends about events that led up to a weekend murder-suicide.

Angela M. Smith, 51, who was found stabbed to death Sunday, was never a nanny for the man police say killed her, but she had recently visited him, said Claire Borowik, a spokeswoman for The Family International.

Police said Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, fatally stabbed Smith in a Tucson apartment hours before shooting himself in Blythe, Calif.

Recent media reports portrayed Smith as a criminal rather than a victim, said Borowik, who knew Smith well but did not know Rodriguez.

"Both these deaths are cause of great mourning and grief to the members of our fellowship and the families involved," Borowik said.

Earlier this week, friends and former members of the sect said Rodriguez's anger toward Smith and his mother, who is the leader of The Family, was a motivation to kill Smith and himself. They contended he had been sexually abused by Smith since he was a toddler in the sect's "free love" culture.

Rodriguez was "an obviously disturbed young man," Borowik said, but added that The Family gave him "ample financial and emotional support" to help him with the difficult transition from the group to independence after Rodriguez left The Family in 2000 to pursue his education.

He developed "violent tendencies" after contacting other former Family members and became estranged from his mother, Borowik said. But friends said the former members had served as a support group for Rodriguez to move on from his past.

Regarding claims made by his friends about the abuse, Borowik said The Family has made efforts to reconcile with former group members for 10 years. In the sect's publications, group leaders issued apologies and officially addressed concerns about discipline, education and sexual misconduct, she said.

Leaders of The Family, formerly called The Children of God, also wrote guidelines that mean excommunication from the group for any adult who has "inappropriate contact" with a minor under age 21, Borowik said.

The guidelines were enacted in 1986. Rodriguez would have been about 11 years old at the time.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at 629-9412 or bpallack@azstarnet.com.

Murder suspect, a suicide, raised by cult to lead
Tucson Citizen, Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Family, a spiritual counterculture religious group, saw Richard Rodriguez as preordained to be its spiritual leader.


Richard Rodriguez was raised to be the spiritual leader of a tightly knit religious organization of 12,000 followers.

Instead, his life ended Saturday when he shot himself in the head hours after allegedly stabbing Angela Smith to death in Tucson.

Rodriguez left the Family International in 2000 but was still haunted by what he experienced growing up in its rigid structure, said Celeste Jones, a friend who also had left the Family and spoke to him the day before he took his and Smith's lives.

"He was very upset and thought there was no justice," said Jones, who now lives in England.

Rodriguez had worked to make those who raised him, including Smith, believe he was not upset.

"He wanted them to think everything was OK," Jones said. "That was part of his plan."

What he did was likely an act of vengeance for abuse he received as a child, Jones said.

Tucson police detectives believe Richard Rodriguez's motive for killing Angela Smith is rooted in their past, but are having difficulty nailing down just what that motive was.

"Richard believed she (Smith) was responsible for something that happened to him in the past," said Detective Sgt. Mark Fuller, in charge of the police homicide detail.

But, Fuller said, detectives have not been able to confirm what it was Smith may have done to Rodriguez.

Smith had helped raise Rodriguez, "maybe like a nanny," Fuller said.

A spokeswoman for The Family International denies the group, which she calls a communal organization, did anything to hurt Rodriguez.

"Ricky was not the subject of corporal punishment," said Claire Borowik, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. "He lived in a liberal environment and it was not something he dealt with."

Moreover, Rodriguez left the family on good terms and started to display rage only after he began talking to a group of former members.

Smith was not a member of the Family at the time she was killed and hadn't done anything to Rodriguez that would give him a motive to kill her, Borowik said.

"Angela was a beautiful human being who never hurt anyone," she said.

But the group does have more lax sexual norms than most societies, Borowik said.

In 1986, the Family was forced to impose age limits for who could sleep with whom, she said.

The Family abused children in a variety of ways, said Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta.

The family regularly practiced corporal punishment and was imbued with a relaxed sexual ethos, Kent said.

"The inner circle of this organization was highly eroticized with few if any boundaries between children and adults," Kent said.

"Ricky went through a tremendous amount of physical and sexual abuse as a child," Kent said.

The group considered Rodriguez special and he was the subject of a book called "The Davidito" chronicling his upbringing.

Rodriguez was born to Karen Zerby, who ran the Family along with its founder, David Berg. Rodriguez did not know his real father but Berg filled that role, Jones said.

The Family believed Rodriguez's place in the group had been preordained, Borowik said.

"We believe in prophecies, that he would play an important role in the group," she said.

Stabber's friends blame decades of abuse in sex cult
ARIZONA DAILY STAR, Tucson, Arizona | Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.12.2005

Section: Tucson Region
By Becky Pallack

A man who police say committed a murder-suicide last weekend was acting in anger against a woman he claimed sexually abused him for decades as part of a sex cult, his friends said Tuesday.

Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, told family members he killed his former nanny, Angela M. Smith, 51, in Tucson before shooting himself in Blythe, Calif. Police said Rodriguez stabbed Smith to death.

The Tucson Police Department was not investigating Smith for any crime, said Officer Michelle Pickrom. But Rodriguez lived all over the world with a religious sect called The Family, and it wasn't known Tuesday whether the alleged abuse was ever reported in any of those locations.

"When he called me that night to tell me he was going to kill himself, he told me that he just wanted to be loved," said a tearful Elixcia Munumel, Rodriguez's wife. The couple was separated.

Rodriguez's mother, Maria David, whose real name is Karen Zerby, is the current head of The Family, which has also been known as the Children of God and the Family of Love.

The group, which has roots in hippie communes of the 1960s, engaged in a communal lifestyle and encouraged sex between all people regardless of age, calling it "free love," former members said. Members of The Family did not return messages left at a toll-free number found on the group's Web site.

Rodriguez's mother joined the group when it passed through Tucson in the 1970s and became the wife of the group's founder, David Berg. Berg became Rodriguez's father figure.

"Berg wanted her (Rodriguez's mother) to have an heir to his kingdom," Munumel said. Smith, a member of The Family for more than 30 years, was one of Rodriguez's nannies, she said.

"Berg encouraged sex between people in his organization and he thought it wasn't wrong to bring the children into it - and Angela introduced Rick to his beliefs," said Munumel, who also was a member of the sect.

She said Rodriguez was angry at his mother for allowing him and other children in the group to be abused. Rodriguez's mother, still with The Family, could not be reached Tuesday. Former members said she lives in seclusion and moves frequently.

As a toddler, Rodriguez was photographed with Smith for a self-published book, called "Davidito" after Rodriguez's nickname. The book contained explicit photographs and advised other parents how to raise children in the "free love" lifestyle, said Daniel Roselle, a law student and former group member who grew up with Rodriguez. He now lives in Los Angeles, but his father is still a leader in The Family, he said.

"Not only were many of us abused because of that book, but he's the archetype for all that we suffered," Roselle said, referring to Rodriguez.

As the heir apparent to The Family, Rodriguez was held up as an example of what children in the group should be, Roselle and Munumel said.

Rodriguez left The Family in 2000 and had been trying to move on, Munumel and Roselle said. However, a statement on an Internet bulletin board where members and former members post messages says he left to pursue his education.

Rodriguez began to speak out against the group's leaders and told much of his story in letters online to former members. Rodriguez compared The Family's leaders to mass murderers, saying they traumatized children.

"There's no moral book that can explain or justify what he did, but his whole life was one of abuse and then rejection," Roselle said.

Rodriguez had an interest in bringing The Family to legal justice, Roselle said. "He told me he wanted to be part of something that would really have an effect," he said. Rodriguez had moved to San Diego four or five months ago, Roselle said.

On the Internet bulletin board frequented by The Family's members a statement that claims to be from the group called the deaths Sunday a tragedy that has "brought much grief and heartbreak" to the families of Rodriguez and Smith.

"In these moments of tragedy, Ricky's family draws comfort from the timeless promises of the Bible, knowing that he and Angela have passed into the realm of eternal justice and peace," the statement says..

Rodriguez had moved to Tucson to be closer to a supportive aunt, Munumel said. But when he arrived here, he found unwanted connections to his past - including Smith.

In Tucson, his grandparents and another aunt and uncle operate and live at a home for the elderly. They declined to speak with a reporter Tuesday. A federal tax form for the nonprofit home - available on www.guidestar.com, a database of nonprofit organizations - shows Smith was a board member.

Smith also is listed as a director of Family Care Foundation, an arm of The Family responsible for humanitarian missions and fund raising.

A violent ending is not an unusual part of a cult story, experts say.

"Every one of these groups are potential Manson families," said Michael Trauscht, a cult expert and a former Pima County prosecutor who has investigated The Children of God - now called The Family - and other cults.

While Trauscht didn't have information about this specific case, he said he is not surprised about the violent act and called The Family a vicious group. He said suicides are common among cult members.

Rodriguez still felt anger and guilt about his childhood abuse, and worse, he felt burdened by what he believed was the abuse of other children in The Family, Munumel said.

"He was angry that the children they had abused had grown up and there was no justice done," she said. "Whatever happened was all the anger and all the pain and all the hurt piled up that just came out all at once."

Another former member recognized Rodriguez's abuse as being some of the worst in the organization. "I get chills when I talk about this," Roselle said. "Ricky was the sacrificial lamb for all of us."

Suicide in California leads to local body
ARIZONA DAILY STAR, Tucson, Arizona | Published: 01.11.2005

Section: Tucson Region
By Aaron Mackey

Tucson police discovered a woman's body in a North Side apartment complex Sunday after California police learned of a suspected homicide during a suicide investigation.

Police in Blythe, Calif., contacted officers with the Tucson Police Department to tell them that a woman was possibly dead in an apartment located in the 2500 block of North Los Altos Avenue, said Sgt. Carlos Valdez, a TPD spokesman.

Angela M. Smith, 51, was found in the apartment. She had died as a result of multiple stab wounds, Valdez said.

Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, who is originally from Washington, lived in the apartment, said Detective Sgt. Jeff Wade, a Blythe Police Department spokesman.

Rodriguez was found Sunday morning in a car in Blythe suffering from a fatal gunshot wound. Police have ruled the death a suicide, Wade said.

While notifying next of kin in Washington, a relative told Blythe police that Rodriguez had called Saturday night and said there was a body in his Tucson apartment, Wade said.

Rodriguez had rented a hotel room in Blythe Saturday night and had only been in the area for a short time, Wade said.

Tucson police believe Rodriguez is the chief suspect in the case of Smith's death because of his admission, Valdez said.

Rodriguez and Smith were friends and Smith may have helped to raise Rodriguez, Valdez said.

It is not clear when Rodriguez was last in Tucson, but Valdez said Smith had died shortly before her body was found.

Murder-suicide case in desert evangelical sex cult
San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer

Sect heir apparent, woman who reared him are found dead

Police in Arizona and California said they are investigating an apparent murder-suicide involving the son of Maria David, the prophet and spiritual leader of the Family, an international evangelical sex cult previously known as the Children of God.

Early Sunday morning, the body of Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, was found behind the wheel of a car in an industrial area in Blythe, a Riverside County town in the Mojave Desert on the Arizona border.

Rodriguez, known as "Davidito" when he was growing up in the Children of God, had been groomed as a child to be the heir apparent of the sect, founded in the late 1960s by the late David "Moses" Berg.

Police said Rodriguez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after making several calls on his cell phone.

By tracing those calls, police were tipped off to check a Tucson apartment, where they discovered the body of Angela M. Smith, 51, who died hours earlier from multiple stab wounds.

"We've had some reports that they were involved with a religious group, and that she (Smith) was involved in his (Rodriguez's) upbringing,'' said Sgt. Carlos Valdez of the Tucson police.

Those familiar with the Children of God know that Rodriguez had one of the most infamous upbringings in the sect, which in its early years encouraged sex between minors and between minors and adults.

Critics of the cult have long pointed to a booklet published by the Children of God titled the "Story of Davidito,'' which describes in glowing terms how Rodriquez was sexually abused as a toddler by his nanny, Sara.

"He was the prince,'' said Daniel Roselle, 29, a Los Angeles man who was also raised in the Children of God. "He was put on a pedestal as the future leader of the Family.''

Roselle, who says he was sexually abused by sect members when he was 7 years old, left the group in 1995, about five years before Rodriguez defected in 2000.

"I knew Ricky (Rodriguez) well, and talked to him about four months ago, '' Roselle said. "He had a lot of rage.'' The two lived at a Children of God commune in Japan in the late 1980s.

In a statement released yesterday, the Family International confirmed that Rodriguez was the son of Maria David, and that Smith was a member of the sect for more than 30 years.

"The tragic circumstances surrounding their untimely death have brought much grief and heartbreak to Ricky's mother and relatives, as well as Angela's family,'' the statement read.

The Children of God began in the late 1960s as a band of hippies, political radicals and "Jesus freaks'' gathered around Berg, a self-described "end times prophet."

In the early '70s, they formed Christian communes in California and Texas -- the first of dozens of small "intentional communities'' that would spring up around the world.

Berg died in 1994, but his movement lives on today as "The Family."

Other survivors of the Children of God include hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of "Jesus babies" born in the 1970s and '80s. Their mothers were young missionaries who followed Berg's call to share sexual favors in order to bring young men to Christ.

They called it "flirty fishing.''

Steve Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, said the highly sexual climate at Children of God communes "did real damage to that second generation.''

Kent and Roselle said there have been suicides in recent years among children who grew up in the Children of God.

"While no one can justify what he (Rodriguez) did, you can understand his frustration and rage,'' said Kent, who has spent years studying the movement.

"He and others from that generation have never seen justice from all the abuse they suffered.''

E-mail Don Lattin at dlattin@sfchronicle.com.

Man kills former nanny, then kills himself
KVOA Eyewitness News, January 10, 2005 at 5:00PM MST


Ricky Rodriguez committed suicide Saturday in Blythe California.

Minutes before he killed himself he called his wife in Washington State.

She says " He told me he was sad...he told me...he wanted to see me if only one more time. "

He also told her he had done something terrible.

It turns out....Rodriguez murdereed a woman in Tucson.

This is the apt. Complex where Rodriguez lived and where police found the body 51 year old Angela Smith. A crew was cleaning up the apt. Where police say Smith was murdered.....stabbed to death....sources say it was a crime of passion....

Sgt. Carlos Valdez says "we're working with his family members friends may have been in town trying to figure out what kind of state he was in."

The management at the complex says Rodriguez moved here in Oct. Nice man... Never imagined he would brutrally murder someone

Both Rodriguez and Smith belonged to a religious group...once called Children of God now called "the family".

There is a website put together by people who have left what they call a cult.

Rodriguez wife says they too had left the religious group. She says Smith had sexually abused her husband as a child.

"she was one of his nannies and she sexaully abused him. And he tried to move on with his life he tried to get over the pain ."

But apparently the pain was too much to bear...and his past came to haunt him. Rodriguez and Smith reportedly went to dinner Saturday night.

"something happened that night she said something to trigger him..because he was not an angry person not the kind of person...I'm trying to understand this."

His widow says Rodriguez mother knew of the abuse and chose not to do anything about it.

She also says sexual abuse was not uncommon in that religious sect.

Police name woman killed in Central Tucson apartment
Tucson Citizen, Jan. 10, 2005


Tucson Police released the name of a woman found slain in an apartment over the weekend, saying she is suspected to have been killed by a man she may have helped raise.

That man later drove to California and killed himself, police said.

Angela M. Smith, 51, was found stabbed to death Sunday in the apartment of Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, a long time friend or associate who lived in the 2500 block of North Los Altos Avenue, near North First Avenue and East Grant Road, said Sgt. Carlos Valdez, a Tucson police spokesman.

Smith may have helped raise Rodriguez, Valdez said, adding detectives are working with family member to try to develop a history of the two people.

Rodriguez was found dead in Blythe, Calif. about 8 a.m. Sunday, said Jeff Wade, a detective sergeant with the Blythe Police Department.

Valdez said detectives here think Rodriguez killed Smith and left for Blythe roughly 12 hours before Smith's body was found.

Their names were withheld until Monday so family members could be found and told of the deaths.

Smith originally was from Virginia, but had been living here for a short time before she was killed, Valdez said. Rodriguez also had been living here for a short time, Valdez added.

Rodriguez rented a motel room Saturday evening in Blythe and made calls to family members, Wade said.

Rodriguez gave no reason for his suicide and left no note, police here and in California said.

Wade said Rodriguez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

His body was found behind the steering wheel of his late model Chevrolet Cavalier, parked in the driveway of the Palo Verde Irrigation District office in an industrial area in Blythe, Wade said.

Wade said he suspects Rodriguez shot himself some time around 2 a.m. Sunday based on a trace of calls made from Rodriguez' cellular phone and on the times they were made.

Before killing himself, Wade said, Rodriguez called family members in Washington state.

"He talked to family members Saturday evening by telephone, he just said ‘send the police to the apartment there in Tucson,' basically, ‘I'm sorry,'" Wade said.

"He made some reference to a body in the apartment there in Tucson," Wade said, explaining he did not know if Rodriguez said he had killed a woman there.

Police probe ties between victim, killer
Tucson Citizen, Tuesday, January 11, 2005


A woman found murdered in a near North Side apartment this weekend may have helped raise her killer in the structure of a rigid religious organization, Tucson police said.

Police have identified the victim as Angela Smith, 51, and the suspect as Richard Rodriguez, 29, both of Tucson.

Rodriguez was found dead over the weekend in his car near Blythe, Calif., where investigators say he took his own life hours after killing Smith.

Rodriguez grew up as the son of the leader of The Family International, a global religious group of about 8,000 members, said Celeste Jones, who met him in 1997, when both lived in Portugal as part of the group.

Jones had an ominous phone conversation with Rodriguez last week, she said.

"He was feeling a lot of rage," she said. "He said he couldn't go on and that he wasn't strong."

Rodriguez was born into the Family International and left it in 2000. The Family International's Web site describes the organization as a worldwide Christian fellowship of 12,000, preaching "separation from the world."

Its founder, David Brandt Berg was the father figure in Rodriguez's life, Jones said.

His mother Maria David, now serves as the head of The Family International, Jones said.

Detectives in Tucson are still trying to piece together the details of Smith and Rodriguez's relationship.

Smith may have helped raise Rodriguez, said TPD Sgt. Carlos Valdez, adding that detectives are working with family member to try to develop a history of the two people. Both lived here only briefly, he said.

Woman found dead; may have been slain in home
Tucson Citizen, Monday, January 10, 2005


Tucson Citizen

Tucson police, tipped off by California authorities, found a possible murder victim in her midtown apartment yesterday.

Police in Blythe, Calif., received a call about a man's suicide late Saturday or early yesterday, Tucson police spokesman Sgt. Carlos Valdez said.

"Some family members made a comment that the victim made a comment that he may have killed someone in Tucson," Valdez said.

Tucson police were told and went to the woman's apartment, in the 2500 block of North Los Altos Avenue, which is near North First Avenue and West Grant Road, around noon yesterday, Valdez said.

The woman was found dead, Valdez said.

Tucson police are not releasing details about the woman's identity or how she died while the case is being investigated, Valdez said.

The spokesman for Blythe police was not available to comment last night.

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