A Collection of News Articles regarding Ricky Rodriguez
Jan 2005

A Collection of News Articles
re: Ricky Rodriguez

articles 11-20

On tape, son of 'prophet' declares war on mother
Video he left behind sheds new light on his split with cult
Don Lattin, Chronicle Religion Writer, Thursday, January 20, 2005

Oakland native David "Moses" Berg, the founding seer of the Children of God, put forth a prophecy about his new wife and new son on May 2, 1978.

"Davidito and Maria are going to be the end-time witnesses. They are going to have such power they can call down fire from Heaven and devour their enemies," the sect leader proclaimed.

"They are going to be killed. Then, after only 3 1/2 days, Jesus is going to raise them from the dead.''

Not only did Berg fail as a prophet, but some now say his miscalculations will have a devastating effect on the group and its followers.

Ricky "Davidito" Rodriguez, whom Berg anointed the future prophet of the secretive cult, is dead. So is Angela Smith, personal secretary and "the eyes and ears" of his mother, Karen "Mama" Zerby, also known as Maria.

Twelve days after Rodriguez slit Smith's throat, then shot himself in the head, a haunting videotape he left behind sheds new light on the battles still raging within the remnants of the Children of God, now known as the Family International.

On the profanity-laced video shot in his Tucson apartment, Rodriguez, 29, makes it clear that his original intention was to torture Smith to get information as to the whereabouts of his mother and her current husband, whom he blames for allowing widespread sexual abuse against him and other children who grew up in the cult.

"It happened to thousands of us -- some worse than others,'' he says on the tape. "My mother is going to pay for that. If I don't get her, and life goes on (after death), I will keep hunting her in the next life.''

Founded in 1960s

Founded by Berg in the late 1960s, the Children of God attracted a small army of hippies, leftists and Jesus freaks drawn to a strange brew of Bible prophecy and sexual license. Berg died in 1994 and left Zerby as chief prophetess of the self-styled sect. The Family keeps secret the whereabouts of Rodriguez's mother.

Rodriguez left the Children of God in 2000 and soon began working with a growing number of other second-generation members trying to hold sect leaders responsible for the alleged abuse.

"We're in a war here,'' he says on the videotape. "I'll get one person, that's for sure -- the source of my information (Smith) ... . The goal is to bring down those sick f -- ers, Mama and Peter (her husband) ... . If I don't make it, hopefully someone else will pick up the torch.''

Former members of the sect say the war between Rodriguez and his mother - - and the obvious failure of Berg's end-time prophecy -- could have a devastating impact on the sect.

"This is such a monumental event -- the death of one of the prophets,'' said John LaMattery, a leading second-generation defector.

"They are waiting for Jesus to come out and say something about it, and Jesus hasn't spoken,'' he said. "The Family is going to spin it and somehow make it look like prophecies were fulfilled in the spiritual realm, but right now, they are in damage control."

Family spokesman Claire Borowik downplayed the importance of the 1978 prophecy about Zerby and her 3-year-old son.

"The Family has known for many years that Davidito wasn't fulfilling that prophecy,'' Borowik said. "We believe that prophecy is conditional on people's choices. It is dependent on man's choices.''

In a memo sent last Friday to the Family International's 12,000 devotees around the world, Zerby's husband, Peter Amsterdam, urged members to avoid media reports and Internet postings about the murder-suicide.

"There is a lot of confusing information floating around about this situation,'' he said. "There are some people who are exploiting this tragedy and trying to use it to their own ends to hurt Mama (Zerby) and me and the Family, and tear down our work for the Lord."

Amsterdam told sect members that Rodriguez was "overcome by the enemy and forces of darkness," while Zerby is "the sweetest, most loving person I know."

Loading bullets

Throughout much of the tape, Rodriguez loads dozens of bullets into magazines for his Glock 23 semiautomatic pistol and indicates that he expects a big shootout when he proceeds to his next target.

"As I go on my merry way, I am going to try to not hurt enforcement,'' he says. "It's going to be hard to do this without doing that, (but) I respect law enforcement.''

Rodriguez also displays a large Kabar knife along with duct tape, a drill and a soldering iron he intended to use as implements of torture.

Tucson police Detective Ben Jiminez said Smith was stabbed several times in the arm, indicating that she put up a struggle before Rodriguez slit her throat, but said there was no evidence that she was tortured.

"We saw the drill,'' he said, "but it didn't have blood on it.''

There have been conflicting reports about Smith's status with the Family.

Borowik said last week that Smith -- a member for 30 years and the longtime personal secretary to Zerby -- had been on an "extended furlough" from the sect.

Earlier this week, it was learned that Smith had recently moved to Palo Alto and had gotten a job at the Restoration Hardware store there.

But former members point to documents showing that Smith was still very much involved in Family business and remained on the board of directors of the Family Care Foundation, a charity in the San Diego area with close ties to leaders in the sect.

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

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

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

Former cult member speaks from grave
Eyewitness News, Only on 4, January 18, 2005

Lupita Murillo Reports

Ten days ago, Ricky Rodriguez murdered 51-year old Angela Smith in a Tucson apartment.

Within hours, he killed himself.

His wife blames his actions on his childhood.

Rodriguez claimed he was raised as a sex slave in a religious cult run by his own mother.

"Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people and what they done. Rage, I get livid," words Rodriguez says on a video tape he recorded the day before police say he killed Smith.

In the video, Ricky Rodriguez sits in his apartment, and from his kitchen table, documents his plan -- to hunt down and kill several members of a religous sect he claims sexually abused him and other children.

Rodriguez says, "There is this need... I have a need. It's not a (explitive) want. It's a need and I wish it wasn't, but this need for revenge, it's a need for justice."

Loading bullets into magazines, the 29-year-old talks about the abuse."Thousands of us, some worse than others, I had it good in many ways"

As a toddler, it been reported that Rodriguez was being groomed to lead the group, but he managed to break away several years ago.

Leaders of the sect have admitted publicly that as of 1986 the rules were changed to ban sex with minors.

The tape is almost an hour long.

Rodriguez shows weapons he intends to use to torture those he felt tortured him, including a drill, a kitchen fork and a stun gun.

He says, "I have this nice Glock and all this (explitive) ammo, but the truth, this is my weapon of choice." He shows a sharpened knife.

By far the most chilling part of the tape is when Rodriguez vows revenge on the group's leader,his own mother.

"My mom is going to pay for that. She is going to pay dearly one way or another. If I don't get to her...man if I don't get to her and life goes on, I'm going to keep haunting her in the next life."

Angela Smith's body was discovered in Rodriguez's apartment on Sunday, two days after the videotape was recorded.

Her throat had been slashed.

Rodriguez shot himself in a parked car in Blythe, California that same day.

Claire Borowick, a spokeswoman for the group told CNN that's not true. "To set the record straight, Angela Smith was never Ricky Rodriguez' 'nanny," said Borowick.

Borowick maintains that Rodriguez was never abused by Smith, althought he was raised in a sexually-permissive environment which was encouraged by parents who were leaders of the "The Family."

Rodriguez claims sister endured years of abuse
Eyewitness News, Only on 4, January 19, 2005

Lupita Murillo Reports

Rarely does anyone get a glimpse into the mind of a person willing to kill.

A videotape, released exclusively to Eyewitness News 4 yesterday, does just that.

Ricky Rodriguez killed a woman in his Tucson apartment 10 days ago. Rodriguez then killed himself.

He left behind a disturbing videotape confession trying to justify his actions.

Ricky Rodriguez never led a normal life. From the time of his birth, Rodriguez was a member of a religious sect known then as the "Children of God."

It's widely reported the group encouraged sex between adults and children. In this videotape, recorded the night before Rodriguez killed 51-year-old Angela Smith in his Tucson apartment, Rodriguez documented his plan.

He loaded bullets into magazines and talked about what led him down this dark path toward murder and suicide.

He says, "That infamous teen training, teen training I started thinking wow how could I do it."

Reportedly, n this sect, "teen training" involved teenage girls and children, including his own sister, selected on a rotating basis to have sex.

Rodriguez says, "She was a (expletive) 6-year-old for God sake! (expletive) animals! I hate those (expletive)! They're going to (expletive) get it if I have anything to do with it."

And if they weren't being sexually abused, Rodriguez claimed they were beaten.

He talks about the abuse his sister endured. "I admired her so much for her bravery because she just left (expletive) Ukraine. She had one meal a day. Sometimes not even that, her friends would feed her. "

"She calls me sometimes, tells me stuff she is going thru. It breaks my heart cuz I want to help her and there's nothing I can do. It's all up here. The damage has been done. "

Rodriguez' widow, who is fearful of being identified, believes her husband committed murder that night after Smith, his former nanny from the sect, mentioned his sister.

"He said she made a very cold comment and that basically he said she was blaming (identity withheld) for the way she turned out it was her fault she didn't move on with her life.."

A spokesperson for the religious sect told CNN yesterday that Smith was never Rodriguez' nanny and had never abused him.

Murder-Suicide Leads to Secretive Cult; Rice Under Fire
Aired January 18, 2005 - 19:00 ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Good evening from New York. I'm Anderson Cooper.

Were the seeds of a violent crime planted years ago in a religious sect based on love?

360 starts now.

(exfamily.org editor: The show covers the report on Condoleezza Rice... the special report Defending America... Nate Berkus who was caught in the tsunami... report on children kidnapped at gunpoint... ........then continues to this...)

360 next, a young man once called a prophet of God. This is him. He makes a startling taped confession hours before killing a woman and himself. We're going to show you this tape in a moment. We investigate. Did a religion sect's bizarre sexual practices lead this young man to murder and suicide? We're covering all the angles.


(exfamily.org editor: Next, the show goes to some plugs for coming shows... then continues to this...)

Coming up next on 360, murder-suicide. Did the sexual practices of a secretive religious sect drive this young man over the edge? We're going to hear from former members of a group known as Children of God, and the family, plus the spokeswoman, shared their side of the story. We're covering all the angles, but you make up your own mind.

360 next.



RICKY RODRIGUEZ: The main reason is that I want there to be some record of the way I feel, my ideas, just who I was, really.


COOPER: A young man calmly loading cartridges into a clip for a pistol.

What you are watching here is a videotape made by a young man named Ricky Rodriguez, in which he talks about the murder he intends to commit, and then after the murder, his own suicide.

In case you are wondering what he's doing while he talks, he is taking those cartridges off the desktop, loading them into the gun that must be in his lap. This is a story about a group that once called itself the Children of God. The name sounds peaceful, idyllic. It conjures up the innocence of harmony and of the Garden of Eden.

But this same group, currently known as The Family, is now in the news because the young man you just saw, the young man who was at one point being groomed to be the family's leader, took violent, deadly revenge for what he claims was sexual abuse at the hands of those who raised him. And there are charges that there were many other victims as well.

We're going to look at all of this in depth tonight, a tale of God and love, sex and murder. In a moment, you'll hear from former members of the sect, who tell of routine sexual abuse of children. You'll also hear from a spokesperson for The Family, who says they are a Christian group doing good work.

Tonight, you can make up your own minds.

We begin with the story of Ricky Rodriguez. CNN's Rusty Dornin has that.


RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They called him the Prince. His mother is the leader of the religious group The Family, also known as the Children of God. He was the heir apparent. But according to his own final words on this video, Ricky Rodriguez became the avenger.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ: I don't want it to go on. I want it to just be over.

DORNIN: Last week, Ricky Rodriguez allegedly stabbed to death Angela Smith, another former member in Arizona. Rodriguez, police believe, then drove to California, shot and killed himself. A man family and former members say was enraged over what he claimed was sexual and emotional abuse against him starting in the '70s. His estranged wife told CNN affiliate KVLA Rodriguez called her after he murdered Smith. Elixcia Munumel refused to appear on camera, but talked about the tape he left behind.

ELIXCIA MUNUMEL, RODRIGUEZ'S WIFE: He talks about killing himself and the gun that he was going to use for it. Talks about a lot of the pain that he experienced in life.

DORNIN: That pain, says Munumel, was what drove her husband to kill Angela Smith.

Clair Borowik, a spokesman for the group, told CNN, that's not true. She says to set the record straight, Angela Smith was never Ricky Rodriguez's nanny. Borowik maintains Rodriguez was never abused by Smith, although he was raised in a sexually permissive environment, which was encouraged by parents who were leaders of The Family.

In the '60s, flower children and so-called Jesus freaks flocked to David Berg and his message of free love. The subject of this documentary called "The Love Prophet." Berg encouraged women from the group to lure new recruits with sex. It was called flirty fishing, or f-fing.

They also just plain preached.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help me have a born again experience.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is that for the first time?

DORNIN: Then Berg, calling himself Mo, short for Moses, began predicting the end of the world. The group began wearing sack cloths. Parents of many members began angry, and began protesting the group, calling it a cult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, when I talked to her all by myself...

DORNIN: In 1986, the group admitted minors were subjected to inappropriate advances and banned sexual contact with children.

By the early '90s, the group was worldwide and still controversial. Hundreds of children of members in France, Spain, Australia and Argentina were taken from their homes. Some members charged with child abuse. But none were ever convicted.

The group says it has since apologized to former members for any sexual misconduct that may have taken place.


COOPER: Well, we don't take sides on this show, as you probably know. We like to look at all the angles on a story. In a few minutes, you're going to hear from a member of The Family. But first, two former members. Yesterday, I talked with a longtime member of The Family's inner circle. James Penn -- it's not his real name; it's the one he asked us to use. He also asked that we show him in shadow. He was associated with the group for 27 years, but hasn't been now since 1998. And as I said, he asked to be interviewed in shadow.


COOPER: Did The Family promote and then cover up the sexual abuse of children?

JAMES PENN, FORMER FAMILY MEMBER: Yes, the sexual abuse of children in the group came from the top down. It's evident in their writings. David Berg promoted it. He thought that was godly, and they, in their published writings, encouraged Family members to have sexual contact with children.

COOPER: And how would this -- I mean, was this done in groups? Was this done in private? Did everybody know about it?

PENN: Anybody who read the literature had to know about it. There was no way you could avoid it. And it certainly went on. It was widespread.

COOPER: A spokeswoman for The Family told "The Los Angeles Times" that the group, and I quote -- "Came out of the '60s with a high degree of liberality on the sexual side. When we began to have children, the degree of liberality continued in some cases in homes in which Ricky Rodriguez lived. This was banned in 1986." They say The Family has changed its guidelines in '86 and they would excommunicate anyone who had sexual contact with children. Do you think this abuse is still going on?

PENN: No, there's no evidence that they're promoting it now, and I think that's the point that needs to be made clearly, because we don't need a witch-hunt here and further endangering young children. But to get back to your original point, they try to cast their defense in the fact that this happened in certain homes, and when they found out about it, they put a lid on it. But that's not the case. It was promoted by David Berg. It was promoted by Karen Zerby and Chris Smith, her husband...

COOPER: When you say promoted, what do you mean?

PENN: They told people do it. It went on in their house. They said that...

COOPER: What did they say? They said what?

PENN: They said that it is part of their law of love, which was some kind of doctrine they had. That it was perfectly OK to have sex with children. And as long as it didn't hurt anybody.

COOPER: So, an adult would have sex with the child, how old was the child?

PENN: It could range from 4 or 5, anywhere further up. I mean, once they let the genie out of the bottle, there was no control, and nobody really knows how much went on, except that it was widespread.

COOPER: Do you know for a fact that adults were having sex with 4, 5-year-old children or fondling them?

PENN: Yes, it's documented in a book, the Davinito (ph) book. There is documentation there of adults having sexual contact with Rick Rodriguez.

COOPER: You say you don't think it's happening now, but do they -- have they acknowledged in your opinion, enough of what went on in the past?

PENN: No. They've simply said that, well, we knew some of it happened and when we found out, we have put a lid on it. They have never acknowledged how widespread it was, and they've never acknowledged that they promoted it. And long after they officially sort of put a lid on it, they were promoting it privately, and it was going on in Zerby's house until the early '90s.

COOPER: You recently posted an apology to the second generation of Family members. In it, you wrote -- "As a first-generation member of the Family, I am guilty of building and maintaining a system that terrorized you. I created material that among other things, covered up the abuse of minors in the group and demonized many detractors. I was one of the oppressors." You stand by this?

PENN: Absolutely.

COOPER: You feel guilty about this?

PENN: Yes. I have great remorse.

COOPER: You knew Ricky Rodriguez. When he left the family, I understand he actually spent time with you. He lived with you for a short amount of time. What happened to him? What was going through his mind, do you think?

PENN: Well, he did come and stay with me. And he had nowhere to go, because no one could really understand him. He was sort of a freak show, because he'd been raised as this poster boy all his life and nobody really understood. And I'd been there. And so he asked me if he could come and stay. And he was -- he was going through a great deal of change in trying to sort things out. But he said himself in a letter he wrote to me, that his emotions, he had them on ice for so many years, and now he's getting in touch with them, and he was feeling great rage and great anger at what had happened to him and what had happened to thousands of other children in the group.

COOPER: Why do you not want your face shown?

PENN: I'm not terribly proud of my time in the group. And I am trying to build a new life.

COOPER: Did you ever abuse children when you were in the group?

PENN: That's a pretty invasive question, wouldn't you say?

COOPER: Well, you don't have to answer it. Just -- you were talking about the group. Is there anything about your own activities in the group that you regret?

PENN: Yes. A great deal. I regret my time in the group. I regret all of what I did. It's the sense of regretting much of what you did for your adult life.

COOPER: Is there anything else you want people to know, James?

PENN: I'd like people to know that there's thousands of young people who grew up in the group who have left, and have many, many problems. And there's a sense of rage there. And I think until there's open and honest acknowledgement of the widespread abuse that happened in the group on the behalf of the leaders, that nothing is really going to -- no healing is going to take place.

COOPER: James Penn, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you.

PENN: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, 360 next, we continue on this story, the so-called avenger. More of Ricky Rodriguez's last words on videotape. This tape was made just hours before he killed a former member and then killed himself. His dark message before the murder-suicide.


COOPER: As you've seen already, the young man whose strange, short life that we're talking about this evening, or talking around perhaps, left behind a chilling videotape. You can't call it a confession, really, because he'd not yet killed a woman who he knew from childhood and then himself, but he would. He would do that within hours.


RODRIGUEZ: The main reason is that I want there to be some record of the way I feel, my ideas, just who I was, really. I've met, got to know some ex-members here and there. Some more than others. I wanted to explain some of the things that I've been doing and thinking, and some of the frustrations that I've had. And anyway, I don't know. I'm just -- I guess it's my -- sort of my last grasp at immortality. I know that I'm not immortal and I know that this video is not going to make me so.


COOPER: All the while, he's loading cartridges, bullets into a clip. Ricky Rodriguez -- excuse me, Ricky Rodriguez was the heir apparent to the religious group known as The Family, also known as the Children of God before that.

A few minutes ago, we heard from one of the former members of the first generation of that group. Now let's hear from one of the younger generation about what happened to him, what he says happened to him. Here is my conversation earlier with Daniel Roselle, another former member of the group.


COOPER: In terms of abuse that you personally saw, that actually happened to you, what can you tell us? What can you describe?

DANIEL ROSELLE, FORMER FAMILY MEMBER: Well, I personally was abused at 7 years of age in Panama City, although The Family has certainly released statements denying that I was abused. This will happen, I suppose, if you come up and speak about the abuses that happened, especially if the people you are pointing to are the ones who consider themselves in a position to either confirm or deny whether you were abused.

COOPER: And in what context did this abuse happen? I mean, are you talking sexual abuse?

ROSELLE: I'm referring specifically to an instance where I was abused during an orgy, a Family orgy in Panama City.

COOPER: So this is hard, I think, for myself, for a lot of people to understand. I mean, without going into sort of too graphic detail, I mean, why were you present at an orgy? You know, what was the situation?

ROSELLE: Well, briefly the history of The Family is that they started experimenting with sexual freedoms. First amongst themselves, and then using religious prostitution to appeal to outsiders and to gain converts to their cause. And then they extended this abuse to children.

It may seem (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and this maybe the difficulty that we've had over the last few years convincing people to listen to our story, but the fact of the matter is, that there are writings from The Family that describe just such abuses. They extended this sexual freedom to their very own children. And not only did they extend it to them, but they exchanged photographs of sex between children and adults. They filmed the videos of 3-year-olds and 6-year-olds and 13- year-olds dancing nude before the camera, and then they brought us into their sexual lives.

COOPER: Daniel, I want to read you a statement, you alluded to it before.


COOPER: This is a statement from The Family. I'm sure you probably heard it before.


COOPER: "The allegations forwarded by Daniel Roselle have no basis in fact. According to his parents, he never suffered any abuse during his time in The Family, and he had declared this openly prior to his engagement in his actions against The Family. We have a policy of investigating claims of abuse from our members and former members. Daniel never lodged a complaint or requested investigation."

Is that true? Did you ever lodge a complaint?

ROSELLE: Well, first of all, I would say that I've been speaking about the abuses for a long time. And let's address their claim that they have a system for addressing these abuses. And I would challenge whoever their spokesperson is, I would challenge them to present to whoever the media that they're speaking to, I would challenge them to present this system. We've been begging them. And when I say we, I say the victims that were abused. We have been begging them to come and show us, to talk to us about the abuses. I would challenge them to present to the media their system for dealing with this. There is no system that we've seen to date. There is no apology that we've seen to date.

COOPER: To your knowledge, has anyone been punished for any of the abuse?

ROSELLE: No. If punishment means to be excommunicated from their group, then this has happened, yes. But no one has been referred to the authorities. In fact, they seem to take efforts to hide these people, or if anything, to just try to pacify the victims one at a time, or to tell them to give it to God or turn it over to Jesus. But there has been no effort to reach out to us. In fact, we've been the ones reaching out to them for the last years.

COOPER: I know this is really tough for you, and I know this is not something you want to do. I know you don't want to be on TV, and I know you're doing it because of what happened to Ricky...


COOPER: ... and what you believe could happen to others who have grown up in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) there.


COOPER: And I know you still have family members in this, so it's a tough thing for you to talk about it. We really do appreciate you coming on tonight and talking about it. Thank you very much.

ROSELLE: Thank you, Anderson. I appreciate your time.

COOPER: As always, want to look at all sides, all the angles. Coming up next on 360, you're going to hear from a spokeswoman for The Family, speaking out about all these allegations and about what she says the group really is all about. What's fact? What's fiction? Covering all the angles, next.



ROSELLE: I would challenge them to present to the media their system for dealing with this. There is no system that we've seen to date. There is no apology that we've seen to date.


COOPER: That was Daniel Roselle, issuing a challenge to the group he left some years ago.

We've heard a lot about this religious group, The Family, this evening, but nothing much directly from them, until now. We are joined in Washington, D.C. by Clair Borowik, who is a spokesperson for the group. Appreciate you being with us, Ms. Borowik. Thanks very much.


COOPER: I want you to respond first to Daniel Roselle's challenge. What system do you have in place to make sure that sexual abuse doesn't continue to happen and to have accounting for what did happen?

BOROWIK: Well, it's very clear that we have a concrete system in place. Our communities came under investigation from 1989 to '93 by courts on three continents, who examined over 600 of our children and never found a single case of abuse.

COOPER: Actually, I mean...

BOROWIK: They were acquitted...

COOPER: I don't want to -- I know there was never a court case, but I mean, forensic officials, apparently, according to Reuters in Argentina, which did throw out the case, did say there were signs of anal and vaginal injuries in children.

BOROWIK: That was the first reports that came out in the media, but after that, those were denied and there was no indication at all. Basically...

COOPER: But do you say no abuse ever happened?

BOROWIK: No, I never said that. Actually, we have explained very clearly that prior to 1986, we did not have policies in place that would disable that kind of contact. We've had a liberal environment. And there were no stringent policies that had been laid down.

COOPER: Wait, I don't understand, though. I was alive in 1986 and even the '70s and late '60s. Why did you need a policy? I mean, most people don't need a policy saying don't have sex with 4-year- olds. That's, I mean, why do you need a stringent policy? Isn't that just kind of common sense?

BOROWIK: Well, the way our group operated, we have a belief that God created sexuality, and he created as something pure if it's done in a loving fashion. However, when this -- when the group first grew and evolved, there was not any rule system down for just a lot of things. So as the group evolved and grew, we put down stringent policies in 1986...

COOPER: Right. But I mean...

BOROWIK: ... forbidding any kind of contact between adults and minors.

COOPER: ... there wasn't a policy probably saying don't shoot yourself in the head, but people weren't shooting themselves in the head. Why -- I don't understand why you needed to write a policy if there wasn't rampant sexual abuse? Why do you need suddenly a policy in 1986?

BOROWIK: Well, there wasn't rampant sexual abuse, but some cases did come to light where there was contact going on or sexual improprieties that young people were uncomfortable with. When these cases surfaced, it became clear that there had to be a very stringent policies. Now, mainstream churches are just addressing this issue over the last five years. We addressed it two decades ago.

COOPER: Well, let me address that, because first of all, James Penn, the former member we talked to, former inner circle member, said that this was part of -- this was something promoted by David Berg, the founder, and all these people who have come forward say, you say you've addressed it, but you haven't named any names of people who had sex with children. And you haven't turned anyone over to the authorities, have you?

BOROWIK: You'd have to go on a case-by-case basis.

COOPER: Well, tell me any case...

BOROWIK: How could we do that...

COOPER: Tell me any case of the 10,000 or more members you have that you've turned over to the authorities for having sex with children.

BOROWIK: If there is an issue that needs to be turned over to the authorities, it's in the right of the parents, which we have clearly articulated.

COOPER: You just compared yourself to a religious group, so I am assuming you're talking about the Catholic Church, which has -- has, you know, whether they've done it rightly or wrongly or slowly, they have turned over names, and they have made apologizes, and they have revealed names. Have you?

BOROWIK: We have made apologizes actually. We've published official apologizes. One of those was made very public through a court case. We've published apologies on five (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

COOPER: Have you turned over anybody to the police? Have you named any names publicly?

BOROWIK: It would be up to the individuals involved. If they want to report somebody, if they feel that they were abused, it's in their court. We wouldn't be able to do that, because it would be a personal allegation by a person against an individual. And for example, Daniel Roselle, he was perfectly in his rights to go to court, if he felt the abuse took place, which his parents say did not occur.

COOPER: Right, he would say you're putting the emphasis on the alleged victim. You know, you as a religious order, perhaps would bear some responsibility to try to purge...

BOROWIK: Perhaps, Anderson, you have to understand how our fellowship is organized. We are small communities of people that live together. Each community is autonomous.

COOPER: Right.

BOROWIK: So when you talk about The Family, for example, Daniel lived with his family and maybe another family. So...

COOPER: OK, so...

BOROWIK: It would be in his court to tell his parents, I was abused, which he never did until he began this campaign to bring harm to The Family.

COOPER: Clair Borowik...

BOROWIK: He had never said that before.

COOPER: OK. Well, we appreciate you being honest, being with us and talking frankly about this. Thank you very much, representative of The Family.

(exfamily.org editor: The show then moves on to other subject(s)...)


Group, P.A. woman's slaying intertwined
Mercury News, Jan 18, 2005


By Elise Ackerman and Kim Vo

For years, Angela Smith's parents had asked her to leave a religious group she had joined in the 1970s. As the new year began, Smith finally seemed ready. She had recently moved to Palo Alto and landed a steady job.

But Smith, known to some friends by the nickname ``Joy,'' never got the chance to put her past behind her.

During a trip to Tucson on Jan. 8, she was stabbed to death by Ricky Rodriguez, the estranged son of the missionary group's leader. Rodriguez then drove west, to the California border town of Blythe, where police say he killed himself with a single shot from a semiautomatic handgun.

``My husband and I kept telling her to get out of the group,'' Smith's mother, Jo Kauten, said in a tearful conversation from her home in Winchester, Va.

Smith, 51, was the executive secretary to Rodriguez's mother, Karen Zerby, the spiritual leader of Family International, and to the group's late founder, Oakland native David Berg.

On its Web site, The Family says it is a Christian fellowship with 12,000 associates working in more than 100 countries. But the Washington, D.C.-based group also has been accused of child abuse in a number of countries.

According to the New York Times, before his death Rodriguez sent three videos to his wife and other family members in which he said he was avenging children like himself who had been beaten and subjected to sexual abuse.

Claire Borowik, a spokeswoman for The Family, said in an interview that the group has been vindicated in the abuse cases and called the criticism the work of ``vitriolic ex-members.''

In a statement, Borowik added that some of those ex-members had prompted Rodriguez to display violent tendencies after he left the group in 2000.

And, she said, Smith had in fact left The Family two months ago because she was ready for a change after three decades of missionary work.

Group's origins

The Family was founded in 1968 in Huntington Beach under the name the Children of God. Its founder, Berg, took on the name Moses David and was known to some of his followers as ``Mo,'' according to the group's Web site.

Scandal dogged the group after claims of brainwashing and child sexual abuse surfaced in the 1970s. Authorities from France to Argentina to Australia have raided the group's homes and taken children into custody.

The group's leaders have said they are targets of religious persecution. In her statement, Borowik acknowledged that minors had been ``subject to sexually inappropriate advances'' but said the group had tightened its policies in the 1980s to forbid sexual contact with children.

Nevertheless, ``Historically they've been known as one of the most horrifically abusive and destructive cults in American history,'' said Rick Ross, director of the New Jersey-based Rick A. Ross Institute and affiliated with www.cultnews.com.

Ross said he had interviewed several former members of the Children of God group, including Berg's daughter and granddaughter, who said they had also been abused. Berg died in 1994.

Though its leaders say the group has been reformed, Ross said, doubts remain because many of its longtime leaders -- including Zerby -- still run the organization.

Ross, who has been tracking cult groups for two decades, said he wasn't shocked by the Rodriguez murder-suicide.

``It doesn't surprise me because so many of these children suffered so much,'' Ross said. ``There have been many suicides over the last several years. There's a tremendous amount of pain.''

At a Web site for children whose parents belonged to The Family, www.movingon.org, members sorted out their tangled feelings about the deaths.

``While the facts regarding these events are still not clear, what happened to Ricky Rodriguez and Angela Smith was a horrible tragedy, and something that we sincerely hope is never repeated,'' the Web site's editors wrote.

A Moving On representative did not reply to an e-mail seeking further comment.

Colleague mourned

News of Smith's death has been especially painful to the staff at Palo Alto's Restoration Hardware, who remember their co-worker as an exceptionally kind and trusting spirit. ``Always something sweet,'' said Gretchen Mills, who took a chance and hired Smith though she had no retail experience.

According to her mother, it was Smith's first job in years that was not connected to Family International.

Mills said Smith caught on quickly, winning over customers and staff with a ready smile and warm personality. She brought snacks for the stock team and would interest herself in the details of her co-workers lives -- remembering to ask about dates and doctors appointments.

Said Mills, her boss: ``There was nothing creepy about Angela.''

Fringe Group at Center of Deaths
LA Times, January 17, 2005

Murder-suicide by a former member brings unwanted attention to a Christian ministry known as the Family.

Larry B. Stammer

Almost 20 years after a fringe religious group renounced practices that included child sexual abuse and incest, a murder-suicide carried out in two states has brought the group's sordid past back to the fore.

Last week, Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, the disaffected son of Karen Zerby, current leader of the communal Christian ministry known as the Family, allegedly killed longtime group member Angela M. Smith, 51, in his Tucson, Ariz., apartment. Then, after driving to Blythe, he apparently took his own life.

In a videotape recorded a day before the deaths, Rodriguez described his desire to exact revenge for an isolated childhood in which he was routinely sexually abused.

Sitting at the kitchen table in his Tucson apartment and speaking directly to the camera, Rodriguez, who had been groomed since birth as the church's heir apparent, said he had been contemplating suicide ever since being forced as a young adolescent to participate in "teen training." In a posting on the Internet in 2002, he described how the training required him to have sex with different girls in the cult each day.

On the tape, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, Rodriguez said that after leaving the group in his mid-20s, he had decided that suicide would not be enough: He would take members of the group with him. Although he hoped Smith would lead him to his mother, who keeps her location secret, he made clear he would settle for what he could get.

In the video, he displays for the camera a variety of weapons before picking up a long knife. "This is my weapon of choice," he says. "I only want it for one purpose. That is for taking out the scum." Smith was stabbed multiple times, police said.

Now the Family, which claims a membership of nearly 8,000 living communally and ministries in 100 countries, is scrambling to shore up its reputation as a worldwide Christian evangelical ministry in the wake of a police investigation, national media interest and accusations from former group members who say that a childhood of sexual abuse growing up in the commune drove Rodriguez to murder and suicide.

The group has issued statements disavowing any responsibility for Rodriguez's actions, saying he was responsible for his choices in life. It also has gone on the attack, warning detractors that "the enemy will rue the day," in a message they said came from Jesus Christ, and calling them "vitriolic apostates."

"There are some people who are exploiting this tragedy and trying to use it to their own ends to hurt Mama and me and the Family, and tear down our work for the Lord," said a statement signed by the group's second-in-command, who uses the name Peter, on behalf of himself and Zerby. Peter also said that Smith was not a member of the group at the time of her death.

Originally known as the Children of God, the group began in the late 1960s, founded by David Berg, who preached the Gospel to the hippies of Southern California.

Like many other cults of the time — including the People's Temple, led by Jim Jones, who persuaded 900 followers to commit suicide in a mass ceremony in 1978 — the group promoted unorthodox practices and demanded absolute obedience from its followers. Berg preached an anti-Establishment, apocalyptic creed, and as his movement grew, he started spreading a bizarre collection of prophecies, such as that a comet would doom America. He called himself "Mo," short for Moses David.

But it was the free-love gospel, espoused by Berg and his followers in order to gather new converts, that made the group stand out — and later led to allegations of child abuse and prostitution in at least a half-dozen countries. Many former members of the group have described a lifestyle that included orgies involving adults and young children, as well as directed sex between teenagers.

Berg, who died in 1994, also established what he called "flirty fishing," in which female members used sex to become "hookers" for Jesus, a sexual variation on Jesus' telling his disciples to become "fishers of men," according to the Encyclopedia of American Religions.

Claire Borowik, a spokeswoman for the Family, told The Times that the group "came up out of the '60s with a high degree of liberality on the sexual side. When we began to have children, the degree of liberality continued in some cases in homes in which Ricky [Rodriguez] lived. This was banned in 1986."

She said stringent policies were put in place calling for excommunication of any adult found to have been in "inappropriate contact" with anyone younger than 21.

In 2000, Rodriguez left the group on good terms, according to Borowik. A missive he posted on the Internet in 2002, though, expressed anger about the church's abuse of children. The posting ended hopefully. He wrote of seeing twins in the park with their loving parents and realizing there was a different kind of childhood than the one he experienced. "It gives me hope," he concluded, "that one day [the Children of God leadership's] evil legacy will die with the Family, and it will be only a distant or, better yet, forgotten bad memory."

By August 2004, in another message he posted on the movingon.org website, Rodriguez seemed far more pessimistic. He wrote that at the time of the first posting, he had hoped that he would one day be able to move on with his life. "I know now that will never happen," he wrote in August. "I can't run away from my past, and no matter how much longer I live, the first 25 years of my life will always haunt me."

The August message ended chillingly: "Every day these people are alive and free is a slap in the face to the thousands of us who have been methodically molested, tortured, raped, and the many who they have as good as murdered by driving them to suicide. It would probably involve a great deal of sacrifice and would best be accomplished, I think, by people who have nothing to lose, such as myself…. I think there are others who feel this way, and I would really like to get in touch with them and exchange ideas."

In his final videotape, Rodriguez acknowledged that his August posting was an attempt to recruit others into his revenge scheme. "I was as clear in that as I could be without spelling it out," he said. But in the end, he said, he didn't regret that no one else had joined him. "I'm glad that others of us haven't gotten to the point that I've gotten to that we really don't have anything else to lose. I'm happy. What it tells me is that people still have hope."

The day before the deaths, Rodriguez spoke of his own hopelessness. "I really don't have anything to lose, I think," he said on the videotape. "I don't want to go through my life the way it is now. I've tried for four years…. If it had just gotten a little better — a little better even emotionally — it would have given me hope. But it's gotten worse."

What Rodriguez said he wanted was justice for children he said were sexually and physically abused, and he drew a parallel with the war on terrorism.

"I feel like we're in a war here," he said. "I feel like everyone who has left [the Family] and in some way speaks out — in some way tries to help somebody, in some way tries to help ourselves — is a soldier in this war. It's a war on terror because these [expletives] are the real terrorists…. Terrorizing little kids, driving them to suicide. Isn't that like murdering them, basically?"

Borowik, the group's spokeswoman, said the organization believed there had been seven suicides of members and former members in the last 30 years. Former members place the number at 31.

She blamed Rodriguez's associates among other former members for his state of mind. She said they should have urged him to seek counseling. "I realize he had a lot of anger with his parents, but had he written and asked for help, they would have wanted him to have the help he needed," she said.

Former Family member Daniel Nathan Roselle, a full-time student who knew Rodriguez when they were both growing up in the group, said in an interview that he urged Rodriguez to consider legal recourse the last time they spoke, five months ago. "I said, look, I'm working this legal thing, and I think we're getting some traction here, and I think nobody's voice is more eloquent on what happened than yours," Roselle said.

At that time, Roselle said, Rodriguez never spoke of an actual plan. He said Rodriguez spoke of wanting to find out where Mama and Peter were.

"There was a lot of rage, but there were no specifics," Roselle said when asked whether he had thought of alerting authorities. "I have to be honest with you. In the 10 years I've talked to others of us, there's a lot of rage."

Roselle and other former Family members were quick to say they didn't condone murder. All said they mourned the death of Rodriguez and Smith.

"I wish it hadn't happened. I wish he hadn't died. It seems the only way anybody's listening is that Rick and Angela died," Roselle said. "It makes me cry."

Roselle said he was sad rather than angry about his experience. He recalled being sexually abused once in Panama by a 20-year-old woman when he was 7.

"I remember the house and looking around at the couch and looking at any number of naked couples going at it, and then having someone come up and get into bed with me in my little mattress on the floor," he said, fighting back tears. "We try to forget, and you can try to go on."

For Rodriguez, that apparently wasn't possible.

Times staff writer Cara Mia DiMassa contributed to this report.

Cult's 'prince' loses control
Sun Herald, Sat, Jan. 15, 2005

End Times guide kills former nanny, then himself

Growing up in the 1970s in a religious cult known around the world as the Children of God, Rick Rodriguez was revered as "the prince." The group's leaders were his mother and stepfather, and they taught that their son would guide them all when the End Times came.

He was so special that his unconventional upbringing - by a collection of often topless young nannies - was chronicled in "The Davidito Book," which was distributed to members as a how-to guide for raising children.

Last Saturday, the 29-year-old Rodriguez invited one of his former nannies, Angela Smith, to meet him at his apartment in Tucson, Ariz., for dinner. He stabbed Smith to death, got in his Chevrolet, drove west across the California border to the small desert town of Blythe and called his wife on his cell phone to explain why he'd done it, according to the police in both states and Rodriguez's wife. Then with one shot from a semiautomatic handgun, police said, he ended his life.

The group lives on. What was once known as a '60s cult, attracting members like the parents of River Phoenix and the Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer, is now called The Family International. A Washington, D.C.-based spokeswoman for the group, Claire Borowik, described the organization as a Christian fellowship with about 4,000 children and 4,000 adult members who live in 718 communal houses in about 100 countries. The group sends aid workers and missionaries to disasters like the recent tsunami.

But Rodriguez's murder-suicide is reviving allegations by former members about routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse they say they experienced as children.

Rodriguez recorded a videotape the night before he killed Smith and committed suicide.

The video, which was provided to The New York Times by Rodriguez's widow, shows him loading a gun. He said he saw himself as a vigilante avenging children like himself and his sisters who had been subject to rapes and beatings.

For The Family International, the latest murder-suicide threatens to revive a past Borowik said she thought the organization had already put behind it.

The Family announced in 1986 that it had changed its guidelines and would excommunicate anyone who had sexual contact with children, she said.

The group survived child abuse investigations in Spain, Argentina, Australia and France in the 1990s, and while some members were briefly jailed, there were no convictions of top leaders.

Suicide of Children of God's heir apparent
Tucson, AZ, Jan. 15 (UPI)

The heir apparent of an international religious cult committed suicide after revealing he stabbed one of his former nannies to death in Arizona.

Ricky Rodriguez, 29, was raised by the founder of the so-called Children of God in a series of global communes marked by intense religiosity and a no-holds-barred sexual milieu that included small children, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Rodriguez was dubbed "the prince" and expected to lead the group when the end of the world came. He left the group in 2000.

Rodriguez's estranged wife said he struggled for years from sexual abuse inflicted on him and his sisters by their nannies and other cult members.

One week ago Rodriguez invited a former nanny to dinner and stabbed her to death, Tucson police said. Then he drove to California and shot himself to death.

The cult, now known as the Family International, once attracted celebrity followers like the parents of River Phoenix and Fleetwood Mac guitarist.

A spokeswoman for the group said it has long since abandoned the sexual promiscuity and attendant abuse that damaged many children and followers.

Deaths revive allegations of abuse
The New York Times, Sun, Jan. 16, 2005

Children of God had checkered past

Growing up in the 1970s in a religious cult known around the world as the Children of God, Rick Rodriguez was revered as “the prince.”

The group's leaders were his mother and stepfather, and they taught that their son would guide them all when the End Times came.

He was so special that his unconventional upbringing — by a collection of often topless young nannies — was chronicled in The Davidito Book, which was distributed to members as a how-to guide for raising children.

On Jan. 8, Rodriguez, 29, invited one of his former nannies, Angela Smith, to meet him at his apartment in Tucson, Ariz., for dinner. He stabbed Smith to death, got in his Chevrolet, drove west across the California state line to the desert town of Blythe, and called his wife on his cell phone to explain why he had done it, according to police in both states and Rodriguez's wife.

Then, with one shot from a semiautomatic handgun, he ended his life, police said.

The group lives on. What was once known as a '60s cult, attracting members like the parents of River Phoenix and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer, is now called The Family International. A Washington-based spokeswoman for the group, Claire Borowik, described the organization as a Christian fellowship with about 4,000 children and 4,000 adult members who live in 718 communal houses in about 100 countries. The group sends aid workers and missionaries to the scene of disasters like the recent south Asia tsunami.

But Rodriguez's homicide-suicide is reviving allegations by former members about routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse they say they experienced as children.

Rodriguez recorded a videotape the night before he killed Smith and himself. The video, which was provided to The New York Times by Rodriguez's widow, shows him loading a gun. He said he saw himself as a vigilante avenging children like himself and his sisters who had been subjected to rapes and beatings.

For The Family International, Rodriguez's acts threaten to revive a past that Borowik said she thought the organization had put behind it. The group announced in 1986 that it had changed its guidelines and would excommunicate anyone who had sexual contact with children, she said.

The group survived child abuse investigations in Spain, Argentina, Australia and France in the 1990s.

Murder and Suicide Reviving Claims of Child Abuse in Cult
The New York Times, January 15, 2005


Growing up in the 1970's in a religious cult known around the world as the Children of God, Ricky Rodriguez was revered as "the prince." The group's leaders were his mother and stepfather, and they taught that their son would guide them all when the End Times came.

He was so special that his unconventional upbringing - by a collection of often-topless young nannies - was chronicled in "The Davidito Book," which was distributed to cult members as a how-to guide for rearing children. And children the cult had in multitudes.

Last Saturday in Tucson, Mr. Rodriguez, now 29, invited a former nanny, Angela Smith, to go to dinner. He took Ms. Smith to his apartment, stabbed her to death, went to his Chevrolet, drove west across the California border to a small desert town, Blythe, and called his wife on his cellphone to explain why he had killed Ms. Smith, the police in both states and Mr. Rodriguez's wife said.

Then with one shot from a semiautomatic handgun, the police said, he ended his life.

The group lives on. What was known as a 60's cult that attracted members like the parents of the actor River Phoenix and Jeremy Spencer, the Fleetwood Mac guitarist, is now called the Family International.

A spokesman in Washington, Claire Borowik, described the organization as a Christian fellowship with 4,000 children and 4,000 adult members who lived in 718 communal houses in 100 countries. The group sends aid workers and missionaries to disasters like the recent tsunami. Its musical troupe, the Family Singers, have at various times sung in the White House.

Ricky Rodriguez, the son of a leader of the Children of God, showed off weapons in a videotape he made the night before he killed his former nanny and himself. On the tape he said he had "a need for revenge."

Angela Smith, who was shot and killed last Saturday.

But Mr. Rodriguez's murder-suicide is reviving accusations by former members about routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse that they say they experienced as children.

There is evidence of the practices in documents that the cult's leaders consider so damaging that they acknowledge they twice sent out "purge notices" to their followers with explicit directions about which pages to burn, which photographs to white-out and which to excise with Exacto knives.

Mr. Rodriguez recorded a videotape the night before he killed Ms. Smith and committed suicide. The video, which was provided to The New York Times by Mr. Rodriguez's wife, was taped in his apartment in Tucson and shows him loading a gun and showing off other weapons.

He said he saw himself as a vigilante avenging children like him and his sisters who had been subject to rapes and beatings.

"There's this need that I have," he said. "It's not a want. It's a need for revenge. It's a need for justice, because I can't go on like this."

Mr. Rodriguez is not the only suicide among people reared in the Children of God. Some former members who keep in touch with one another through a Web site, movingon.org, say that in the last 13 years at least 25 young people reared in the cult have committed suicide.

In response to questions, the Family strongly insisted in an e-mail message from Ms. Borowik that the formers members were intentionally inflating the count by including accidents, overdoses and people who are alive.

For the Family International, the latest murder-suicide threatens to revive a past that Ms. Borowik said she thought the organization had put behind it. The Family announced in 1986 that it had changed its guidelines and would excommunicate anyone who had sexual contact with children, she said.

The group survived investigations into child abuse in Argentina, Australia, France and Spain in the 90's. Although some members were briefly jailed, there were no convictions of top leaders.

Ms. Borowik attributed Mr. Rodriguez's crime not to his past, but to his current "peers." She said that when he left the group in 2000, he came in contact with former members who are "virulent vitriolic apostates, which we have a small circle of, who want to do damage to our movement."

They failed to point him in "positive directions," she said.

Mr. Rodriguez's mother, Karen Zerby, known as the Queen or Mama Maria, still leads the Family. Her whereabouts and travel schedule are kept secret, even from most group members, Ms. Borowik said, "because of her spiritual ministry to so many people."

Ms. Zerby refused an interview request submitted to Ms. Borowik.

Mr. Rodriguez's wife, Elixcia Munumel, from whom he had recently separated, said he had spent the last few years trying to find his mother and his half-sister, Techi. He wanted to see his mother prosecuted for child abuse, and to free Techi from the group, Ms. Munumel said.

She said that Mr. Rodriguez had moved to Tucson because he had heard that his mother and half-sister had stopped through there on Christmas 2003 to see his grandparents, who run an old-age home there and that he hoped they might visit again.

"He always wanted to do something to make right his mother's wrong," said Ms. Munumel, who left the Family with Mr. Rodriguez and is studying for a nursing degree. "He felt he owed it to all of those who never got justice.

"I'm not justifying what he did and I'm not saying it was right, because it was a life that was taken. But I want people to understand that what he did was out of pain and hurt and years of that pain building up and not being able o have that weight lifted."

The founder of the Children of God was David Brandt Berg, a son of Pentecostal evangelists. In the late 60's, he attracted a group of hippie followers who styled themselves as revolutionary Jesus freaks.

Ms. Zerby was his second wife. Promoting a gospel of free love, Mr. Berg urged his female followers to go out and offer sex to lure converts, according to histories of the organization. He called it "flirty fishing."

The group hopscotched the globe, and its history has been well documented by scholars. Internal documents that former members provided this last week also fill in details.

In the Canary Islands, Ms. Zerby gave birth to Ricky, whom the group called Davidito. Church documents show that the father was a handsome hotel clerk in Tenerife. Mr. Berg adopted the baby, but he was cared for day to day by a coterie of young female members, including Ms. Smith, the nanny who was killed.

"The Davidito Book" was written by a nanny known as Sara, and it was among the documents that the leaders ordered purged. But some former members saved their copies and sent e-mail excerpts to one another this week in an effort to fathom Mr. Rodriguez's violence.

In several pages of the book that former members sent to The Times, the toddler Ricky is described or else pictured as watching intercourse and orgies, fondling his nanny's breasts and having his genitals fondled. All that is recounted in a tone of amusement and delight.

Ms. Borowik, the spokeswoman, said in a lengthy telephone interview that Mr. Rodriguez had been reared in an atmosphere similar to "a nudist colony," where sexual freedoms were taken for granted. She cited scholars who said the sexual practices appeared to cause no harm to the children and a psychologist who evaluated Ricky as a teenager and found him well adjusted.

"He was never taken advantage of," she said. "Rather he was allowed to explore his sexuality freely. He was allowed to explore as a young boy what comes naturally, and usually in our society, we do not allow such exploration."

In interviews this last week, more than a dozen people who grew up in the cult gave detailed accusations about experiencing or witnessing sex abuse of minors.

"At the time, I didn't think of it as abuse," Peter Frouman, 29, of Austin, Tex., who left in 1987, said in a sentiment echoed by many others. "I had no concept that normal people didn't do this sort of thing. I thought it was perfectly normal for parents to have sex with their children, and children to have sex with each other and with adults.

"When I was 11, I had sex with a 28-year-old woman, and it was with the approval of everyone in the room. I found out later that my mom was watching."

In 2002, Mr. Rodriguez posted a memoir on the movingon Web site saying Mr. Berg, who died in 1994, had sexually abused his granddaughter and daughters. In Mr. Rodriguez's account, the group's founding father came off as a debauched pedophile and his mother as cold and violent toward the children.

Mr. Rodriguez, like others, gravitated to other former members who seemed the only others who could understand the strange world that they had inhabited. Some discussed whether they could work through the legal system to lock up their former abusers. But many said they despaired.

Tracking down people was difficult. Pseudonyms were the standard in the Family, and members often changed their names. They live in isolated, often clandestine, communes all over the globe.

"It happened everywhere - in the Philippines, Japan, Greece," said Celeste Jones, a former member in England. "So where do you go for legal redress?"

Mr. Rodriguez called Ms. Jones in the 24 hours before the killing, saying he could not go on. "I was telling him, "Things will be taken seriously,' but he didn't believe it," Ms. Jones said.

The police said the last telephone call that Mr. Rodriguez made was to his wife, Ms. Munumel. She said he told her he that had done something very wrong, to avenge not himself, but his sisters. He then asked her to call the police in Tucson because he had killed a former nanny.

Ms. Munumel said, "He said the hardest thing for him had been that as she was dying, she didn't understand what she had done wrong."

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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