Nigeria: Cultists Attack Esut
Tony Ita Etim
20 May 2010
Enugu — Unidentified gunmen, suspected to be members of a secret cult, Tuesday, attacked the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, (ESUT) at Agbani town. The attackers disrupted the first semester examination while some lecturers and students who were taking their examination were injured. The incident, which happened about noon, paralysed activities of the university throughout the day as students, academic and non-academic staff were scared of continuing with the examination and other duties.
According to sources, the students were writing the semester examination in different departments of the institution when the gunmen numbering about 20 arrived in an unmarked commuter bus, and started shooting sporadically into the air as they made their way into classrooms and main hall of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
The hoodlums who were reported to be searching for targetted members of a rival cult group, moved towards the identified enemies and attacked them. Some male students sensing danger broke the glass windows and jumped out but their female colleagues and lecturers supervising the examination, who could not escaped sustained various degrees of injury. The gunmen reportedly searched handbags of the female students and removed their handsets, money and jewelry as they continued to shoot into the air to scare away private security men in the university. The attackers left the scene before a team of policemen arrived and no arrest was made.
"It was a terrible thing. I have never seen a thing like this. Some of the young men carried two short guns in both hands and were shooting as if they came for a war. But thank God nobody died but I saw several students bleeding on account of injuries sustained," a student said. One student was hit by a stray bullet and was rushed to an unknown hospital while others including students and lecturers, wounded in the attack, were reportedly taken to University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, (UNTH), Ituku-Ozalla.
The university's Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ossy Ugwuoti, confirmed that there was shooting on campus but that the campus security led by the police repelled the attackers. Ugwuoti said, "It was an isolated cult and gangsterism affair. There was no disruption of examination. The incident happened at the Faculty of Social Sciences arena but normalcy was restored immediately. There was no casualty except a stray bullet that hit a student on the leg and he is now being treated."
The Police Public Relations Officer, Enugu State Command, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said he was not aware of the incident and that he was just hearing about it from our correspondent.
John Mark Karr Re-Emerges to Form a JonBenet Cult Karr, known and reviled for his false confession in the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty princess JonBenet Ramsey, has re-emerged on the Internet in a bizarre and much more terrifying role. And a manhunt is under way.
By Ed Barnes
May 24th 2010
When the world first saw John Mark Karr in 2006, he was being led to a plane in handcuffs in Thailand after confessing — falsely, it turned out — to the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty princess JonBenet Ramsey. When the world last saw him, in 2008, he was also being led away in handcuffs — after being arrested in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend at his parents' house in Atlanta.
Two years later, Karr is back — the subject of an unofficial nationwide manhunt being conducted on Twitter, Facebook and other places on the Web that is as strange and intense as the man — or woman — himself. Police in Seattle and San Francisco are also looking for him — or, perhaps, her, because Karr claims he has had a sex change operation in the past two years and now goes by the name of Alexis Valoran Reich, or, occasionally, "Delia Alexis Reich." Or perhaps that's just a ruse, Karr posing as a woman to avoid being recognized. A Facebook page, recently removed, showed him as a woman in his profile picture, and he has reportedly been taking hormones in preparation for a sex-change operation.
The accusation this time is that Karr, 46, a reputed pedophile who married a 13-year-old and later a 16-year-old in the 1980s, has been trying to create a cult of JonBenet Ramsey lookalikes he is calling "the Immaculates" — blond girls as young as 4 years old with small feet — and has been threatening harm to one of the girls, whom he used to recruit others and who escaped from his influence. The news of the cult and the fresh accusations come from 19-year-old Samantha Spiegel, who says she met Karr when she was 9 and he was a teacher's aide at the elite Convent of the Sacred Heart Catholic School in San Francisco, where he briefly taught her fourth-grade class.
Spiegel says they reconnected two years ago after she saw Karr on television at a court hearing and contacted him. That began an intense relationship over the Web that involved thousands of e-mails, which she says convinced her she was special to him and was destined to recruit his "Immaculates." When Karr proposed to her and she accepted, Spiegel's parents intervened and sent her to a rehabilitation facility for 18 months to break her connection with him. But for two years, she says, Karr "demanded" that she try to recruit young girls into his cult. She says that when she emerged from treatment, Karr — now Reich — found her and, failing to reconnect, began a campaign of threats.
"He said if I got in the way of him and his little girls, he would have me hunted down and killed," Spiegel said at a hearing in San Francisco last month at which she got a restraining order against him. She said she was certain that he was living as a woman in order to get close to little girls. She also produced e-mails for the court in which Karr said: "I want to hurt you." She responded, "You do?" "If you deceive me," he replied, "I will kill you. I know where you live." In one of his last messages, on April 10, Karr wrote: "If you cost me my little girls I will hunt you down and kill you."
San Francisco police have asked Seattle law enforcement for help in finding Karr. But if Karr is caught, the charge against him will be only for cyberstalking because he has had little personal contact with his alleged victims,according to Robin Sax, a former sex crimes prosecutor and pro bono attorney for Spiegel.
The search for Karr has painted a disturbing picture that chillingly mirrors that of cult killer Charles Manson. Sax says the investigation so far has revealed that "Reich" has as many as 30 "minions" — or followers — who provide him with food, money and computers so that he can travel, survive, communicate with them and remain a phantom. She says those "minions" are also his recruiters for "the Immaculates."
"He often lives in homeless shelters and uses Craigslist to find rooms for a few days at a time and eats in soup kitchens," Sax said. "He usually wears a turtleneck to hide his Adam's apple. He is open about his transgender status. And he is a talented genius on the computer," she said, explaining that he uses it to control his followers and to play a game of cat-and-mouse with his pursuers. He checks my website 80 times a day," she said.
Private Internet investigators say Karr/"Reich" runs a website that promises to be the only place on the Web that tells the truth about him. Written in the third person and called Lei Sussurra — Latin for "I murmur" — it claims that Karr was "reported by family to have left the United States in September 2008. It has since been reported that he has returned to the U.S. under various names. Latest reports place him out of the U.S., but his whereabouts and the life he leads are purely speculative." Searchers say the claims are designed to confuse their hunt for Karr. "A recent picture taken for a driver's license in Washington shows he has totally changed his appearance," Sax said. "He has highlighted hair and is trying to look younger." She said Karr was last seen living in a shelter for battered women in Seattle.
"arr/"Reich" failed to respond to e-mail messages from FoxNews.com seeking comment at multiple Web addresses he is known to use.
Erica Derryck, spokeswoman for the San Francisco District Attorney's office, said that Karr's case was under investigation and she couldn't comment further. But, she said, investigators hope that the next time they see Karr, he'll be back in handcuffs.
Cult leader's family suspects foul play Shai Abramof's family calls for investigation into his suicide.
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
Suspected cult leader Shai Abramof's family has not ruled out the possibility of foul play in his death, reported Army Radio on Sunday. His lawyer said their were no previous signs that he was suicidal after having met with him on Friday morning. The family requested that an external investigative committee be created to look into the issue of Abramof's suicide.
Abramof, 40, suspected of being a cult leader and encouraging a teacher to starve and beat her young son committed suicide in his prison cell at the Hadarim Prison in the Sharon area on Friday night. He was found by wardens after hanging himself with a lace taken from a pair of pants. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him without success. Abramof’s two cellmates were asleep at the time of the suicide. He had undergone an evaluation by social services and found not to be suicidal, the Prisons Service said.
He was arrested in Haifa on Wednesday along with his wife on suspicion of heading the Itka cult, and ordering his followers to physically abuse their children. Three weeks ago, a 42-year-old schoolteacher from Netanya, allegedly a member of the cult, was arrested for starving and badly beating her 10-year-old son.
Abramof’s attorney, Avishag Cohen, said her client had undergone a humiliating experience during his arrest, when officers had “stepped on his head in front of his wife and children.” Cohen added that Abramof had been denied his legal rights such as consulting with an attorney following the arrest.
Last year, two inmates at Hadarim committed suicide, prompting criticism over the ability of the Prisons Service to prevent such incidents. Assaf Goldring, who smothered his three-year-old daughter to death with plastic wrapping, leapt to his death from a jail courtyard fence in September 2009. In August 2009, television star Dudu Topaz, arrested for ordering the beatings of television executives who rejected his ideas for television shows, took his own life. Both men were on suicide watch. The Prisons Service set up committees to investigate the incidents. A spokesman said more than 750 suicide attempts were stopped last year.
Justice served in Ramkissoon case Those most responsible for toddler's death received tough sentences
By Julie Drake
June 2, 2010
A number of local citizens have raised questions about the sentencing of Ria Ramkissoon, mother of 16-month-old Javon Thompson, who died of dehydration and starvation while living with a cult in West Baltimore. In order to understand her sentence, it is important to understand the facts that formed the basis for Ms. Ramkissoon's guilty plea and the trial of her co-defendants.
In 2006, Ms. Ramkissoon was persuaded by a friend to join a household run by a woman who called herself "Queen Antoinette." Ms. Ramkissoon was told that this was a Christian household where she could devote herself to the care of her child, Javon, then 7 months. Toni Sloan, aka "Queen Antoinette," ran her household under a strict set of rules, which she said were based on biblical principles. As time passed, the rules multiplied and became more restrictive. Eventually, all members were required to give up their personal possessions (including identification), as well as contact with old friends and family. The children were not permitted to attend school, and the women were expected to stay home and care for the children. With the exception of Queen Antoinette, her daughter Trevia Williams ("Princess Trevia"), and her chief aide, Marcus Cobbs ("Prince Marcus"), no one could leave the house, unless they were accompanied by another member. Queen Antoinette claimed that God spoke directly to her; failure to follow her rules would result in damnation.
One morning in early 2007, Javon, then 16 months, refused to say "amen" after the blessing before breakfast. Queen Antoinette told the others that Javon possessed a "spirit of rebellion" and that God told her that the way to purge Javon of this evil spirit was to deprive him of food and water until he said "amen." As Javon cried from hunger, Queen Antoinette warned the household members not to feed him. Ms. Ramkissoon was so distraught over this that Queen Antoinette ordered Ms. Williams to take control of Javon; she did not want Ms. Ramkissoon to disobey her order. When it became clear that Javon was on the verge of death, he was returned to his mother, and he died in her arms.
After Javon's death, Queen Antoinette ordered everyone to kneel and pray for his resurrection. God would bring Javon back to life, she said, but only if they had enough faith. As the days passed and Javon's body began to decompose, the only person who remained by his body was his mother. When Ms. Ramkissoon wondered why Javon had not risen from the dead, Queen Antoinette told her she wasn't a good enough mother and she didn't have enough faith. Ms. Ramkissoon believed her. The cult members moved to Philadelphia, where Javon's body was placed in a suitcase inside a locked shed. It was left there when the group moved again, to New York. As of the trial date, Ms. Ramkissoon still believed that Javon could be resurrected.
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Ms. Ramkissoon received a sentence of 20 years, with all but the time she has already served suspended, and five years' probation. Pursuant to her plea agreement, she testified at the trial of Queen Antoinette, Trevia Williams and Marcus Cobbs, helping to secure convictions of all three on charges of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. Also pursuant to the agreement, Ms. Ramkissoon was immediately driven to a residential treatment facility, where she will be held indefinitely. At Ms. Ramkissoon's insistence, the court agreed that if Javon is resurrected, she can come back to court and withdraw her guilty plea.
Why did I agree to let Ms. Ramkissoon withdraw her guilty plea if Javon is resurrected? If Ms. Ramkissoon's religious beliefs are correct, and Javon resurrects, it would be legally appropriate. That said, I do not share Ms. Ramkissoon's religious beliefs, and I believe the likelihood of Javon's resurrection in my lifetime is too remote to be a concern. I carefully specified on the record that this condition involved resurrection of Javon's body — not reincarnation into another body.
Why did Ms. Ramkissoon receive probation? There are a number of reasons why one co-defendant receives a more lenient sentence than the others, several of which applied to Ms. Ramkissoon's case.
First, it was clear to everyone that the central and most culpable defendant in this case was Queen Antoinette. She was the leader of the cult. She issued the order to withhold food and water from Javon. She warned the others not to feed Javon and removed Javon from Ms. Ramkissoon's control. Our first priority was to convict Queen Antoinette of child abuse and murder and to secure a substantial prison term in her case. In order to do that, it was necessary to obtain eye-witness testimony, and Ms. Ramkissoon was willing to tell the truth.
Second, and equally important, I believe that justice was best served by placing Ms. Ramkissoon in a residential treatment facility rather than in prison. It was clear to everyone who interviewed Ms. Ramkissoon that she had been indoctrinated through classic "brainwashing" techniques into a cult. She had no malice or ill will toward Javon; quite the contrary, she believed Queen Antoinette was acting in his best interests. Nonetheless, she was extremely distraught when Javon began showing signs of distress. After Javon's death, Ms. Ramkissoon spent weeks by his decomposing body, praying for his resurrection. This was not an individual who was acting out of a classic criminal intent (e.g. malice, anger, desire for revenge or gain), but rather a mother who has and will suffer anguish over the result of her inaction.
It should be noted that the main reason Ms. Ramkissoon was not found "not criminally responsible" is because her delusions were of a religious nature and were shared by other people; therefore they could not be classified as a "mental disorder."
However, Ms. Ramkissoon was not simply released to freedom. A condition of her probation is that she remain in and successfully complete a long-term, in-patient, residential treatment program. Should she leave the facility against medical advice, fail to successfully complete the program, or violate any other condition of her probation, Ms. Ramkissoon could be incarcerated for almost 20 years.
As a prosecutor, my ethical obligation is to do justice, not to secure a conviction or the maximum possible sentence. In the case of Ria Ramkissoon, I believe the guilty plea and sentence were just.
In other circumstances, I would make different sentencing recommendations. When I prosecuted Mark Castillo for drowning his three children, I asked for and received a sentence of three consecutive life terms without parole, the harshest sentence the defendant could have received.
Justice requires a meticulous review of the facts and the evidence, the role of each defendant, and the wishes of the family members. That is what I did in this case. I respect the fact that not everyone will agree with me, but I would ask those who disagree to take a careful look at the factors I considered before rushing to judgment.
(Editor's note: On May 18, "Queen Antoinette" was sentenced to 50 years incarceration. Both Trevia Williams and Marcus Cobbs were sentenced to 50 years incarceration, with all but 15 years suspended.)
Julie Drake is division chief in the Felony Family Violence Division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is Steiner's "Anthroposophy" a Satanic Cult?
By "Alice Shapiro"
05 June 2010
There are more than 800 Waldorf Schools Worldwide, part of Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical Movement. A former teacher believes they front for something darker.
For ten years, I was employed by a Waldorf school as a subject teacher and later became a class guardian. When I first arrived at the Waldorf school I saw it as being friendly and open to all people from any religious or cultural background. The curriculum enriched with arts and music reminded me of the Jesuit style of classical education. My desire was to work in a small community type school near my home with smaller classes.
My interest and understanding of Rudolf Steiners' lectures and writings were limited. I found most of the ideas I read outdated and skewed. With respect towards peoples choices and beliefs, I accepted my employer's belief system.
In September 2005, the high school students, teachers and some staff members went to what was called a "communication retreat" on an island set-up for summer camps. The retreat was the creation of two staff members who claimed to be experienced in this kind of group work. It was later discovered that they had never tried this with a large group of students. The main activity of students (ages 14 to 19) and staff members was to sit in a large circle, 67 people in total, in the cafeteria for six hours divided by three sittings. All were asked to keep silent unless the individual felt moved to speak. The beginning of this activity was signaled by a chime used by a staff member. No one could speak until they said their name each time they wanted to speak, i.e. "My name is ...".
The stated goal of this five-day activity was to bring all members of the group to one consensus of one thought. By the end of the second day, many students were intimidated by this process and were not able to express themselves. Many students showed signs of restlessness, agitation and they were clearly uncomfortable. They were not allowed to call their parents privately. Some students called this cult indoctrination and refused to attend meetings.
I tried many times during the first days of the retreat to share my concerns with the other staff members. I tried to convey to the damaging effects of this type of imprinting. This retreat was far too intimidating for most students to communicate anything but fear and anger. Some students wanted to leave; a teacher physically threatened a student if she did not comply.
Brainwashing and indoctrination are defined 'as unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulators often to the detriment of the person being manipulated'. Isolated on an island, not allowed to call parents privately, sitting long hours in a circle, falls into this category.
Thought control begins by having individuals reveal things about themselves they would not normally reveal. Some students expressed feeling inadequate for not wanting to speak. Students who refused to attend were threatened with expulsion from the school. Students who followed directives were praised effusively.
Many parents were furious about this kind of indoctrination, some students left the school and damage control was in effect. Instead of taking responsibility for an ill-fated retreat, they made me their scapegoat. I was accused of doing and saying things I did not do or say. Be this said, the exit cost from this cult was very high causing irreparable damages to my family and my career.
In the following months, I began to research this cult. I read many books, articles and lectures from Rudolf Steiner and critical thinking groups like Plans (People for legal and nonsectarian schools) and Waldorf Critics and found many stories echoing the ways things happen in this school. Most of all, I wanted to know what was behind their facade of kindness and acceptance. Here are some of Steiner's quotes that explain why and how this religious cult is secretive.
"We also need to speak about a prayer. I ask only one thing of you. You see, in such things everything depends upon external appearances. Never call a verse a prayer, call it an opening verse before school. Avoid allowing anyone to hear you, as a faculty member, using the word 'prayer'."  "We should be quiet about how we handle things in our school, we should maintain a kind of confidentiality. We should not speak to people outside the school, except for the parents who come to us with questions, and in that case, only about their children, so that gossip has no opportunity to arise." 
"We have to remember that an institution like the Independent Waldorf School with its anthroposophical character, has goals that, of course, coincide with anthroposophical desires. At the moment, though, if that connection were made official, people would break the Waldorf School's neck."  "Formally, the Waldorf School is not an anthroposophical institution; rather, it is an independent creation based upon the foundations of anthroposophical pedagogy. In a way it meets the public, as well as the way it meets legal institutions, it is not an anthroposophical institution, but a school based upon anthroposophical pedagogy.  "If the school suddenly became an anthroposophical school, that would upset both official authorities and the public." 
This false front of who they really are exists to this day in these schools.
The claim that these Steiner/Waldorf schools make is that they are not religious but are instead a philosophy. Anthroposophy is closely linked to Theosophy and the teachings of Madame Blavatsky. Steiner was the Head of the German Theosophical movement before he left to set up his own cult. Waldorf schools are a religious messianic type cult built on the dogmas of theosophical principles and beliefs put in place by a charismatic cult leader Rudolf Steiner who is a self proclaimed clairvoyant wielding his own style of New World Order. This is a polytheistic religion using the word 'verses' to replace 'prayer' used every morning in all classes. Teachers are expected to use these prayers, meditations akin to the Buddhist method and Steiner prescribed spiritual exercises to gain knowledge of the gods, their hierarchies and their higher worlds.
According to a well known present day anthroposophist Roy Wilkinson, teachers are expected to develop clairvoyant faculties. Wilkinson outlines this path from the book "THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION, The Waldorf Approach," noting specifically in the chapter "Esoteric Development and the Teacher"; "This is the same path that should be followed by every teacher who takes his vocation seriously." In his lecture given in Zurich, October 27, 1919, Steiner attributes man's evolution to Lucifer. " Luciferian wisdom was at the utmost benefit to man in that epoch of evolution, brilliant in a certain way, graduated according to the different peoples and races among which it was spread."
Here he is referring to Greece, Babylonian, Egyptian and Asian ancient cultures. "The whole of gnostic thought existing at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, an impressive wisdom shedding light deep into cosmic realities, this whole Gnostic knowledge was inspired by the impulse coming from Luciferian forces. One must not say that Gnostic thought is therefore false; one is merely characterizing it by saying that it is permeated by Luciferian forces."
And he further explains; "Man must oscillate to the one side according to the Luciferian principle and to the other according to the principles of Ahriman, but he must maintain his equilibrium through the cultivation of Paul's declaration, "Not I, but the Christ in me." " In short, we can detect a Luciferian remnant in the East, which, I would say, a wise guiding force left behind for the evolution of mankind in general."
He also explains in his writings, "THE INFLUENCE OF LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN," how to train oneself in an esoteric way towards evolution "By permeating what takes ahrimanic form within us with a strongly Luciferian element."  "In the absolute sense, nothing is good in itself, but always good or bad according to the use to which it is put." 
One could say that these practices lead to mastering the creation of deceptions, chaos and confusion and to act towards others with false compassion.Racism and discrimination are prevalent in Steiner's dogma that the " blonds and blue eyed people" are endowed with intelligence.
"On one side we find the black race, which is earthly at most. If it moves to the West, it becomes extinct. We also have the yellow race , which is the middle between earth and the cosmos, and it becomes extinct. The white race is the future, the race that is creating spirit."  " The French as a race are reverting."  " The use of French language quite certainly corrupts the soul"  To this way of thinking, Steiner also sees some children as sub humans; "Cases are increasing in which children are born with a human form, but are not really human beings ... [they] are not reincarnated, but are human forms filled with a sort of a natural demon ... Imagine what people would say if they heard that we say there are people who are not human beings."  .
There are more than 800 Waldorf /Steiner schools world wide. These schools are often positioned as charter schools in the US. In Northern Ireland, they are now part of the public education system. Other than education, Anthroposophy has many branches. They now have their own Anthroposophic Pharmaceutical Codex and International Association of Anthroposophic Pharmacists and Doctors. They are involved in the business of caring and providing homes in their own communities for Special Needs individuals through the Camphill Communities and other such communities. In Zurich, the Goetheanum gives conferences and train practitioners in education, medicine and mental health. There are developing schools for their brand of spiritual psychology.
 Rudolf Steiner, FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER (Anthroposophic Press, 1998), p. 20
 Ibid., p.10
 Ibid., p.705
 Ibid., p. 698
 Ibid., p. 703
 THE SPIRITUAL BASIS OF STEINER EDUCATION, p.115
 THE INFLUENCES OF LUCIFER AND AHRIMAN, (Rudolf Steiner Press) p.34
 Ibid., p.52
 VOM LEBEN DER MENSCHEN UND DER ERDE, P. 62
 FACULTY MEETINGS WITH RUDOLF STEINER, P.559
 Ibid., p.558
 Ibid., pp. 649-650
Investigation into 'cult' assault complete; ruled accident 911 call released
By Brian Kuebler
PIKESVILLE, Md. - Listening to the 911 call, you can tell even from the beginning, it is clear something just isn't right. The caller inside 3716 Michelle Way tells the dispatcher there is an emergency, but as the dispatcher tries to gather more information, the caller hangs up. When the dispatcher calls back he gets a busy signal followed by voicemail.
When medics made it to the scene they found 18 year old Carmella Goldstein laying on a piece of plywood. She was transported to Sinai Hospital where doctors say she suffered a broken pupil, a punctured lung, fractured ribs, a torn cervix, broken pelvis and a fractured leg. Doctors didn't think Goldstein would make it through surgery but she did and now remains in critical condition. But how this all happened is the source of much confusion.
According to the police report witnesses at the house were not cooperative, one never bothered to even come outside which helped lead to the barricade situation last Wednesday. According to the report, eventually witnesses started to tell the same story...saying Goldstein's injuries were the result of a fall off a one foot tall trailer.
Police would later discover the victim was helping to move a slab of granite and it fell on her causing the injuries. Severe injuries both the victim and witnesses insist were an accident; a story investigators have few other options but to believe "That's the best that we can tell from the evidence and witness statements and everything we have at this time. At this point our investigation has been concluded," said Baltimore County Lt. Robert McCullough.
Back at the house on Michelle Way, it remains quiet. The damaged windows from the barricade now boarded up adding more mystery for neighbors about exactly what goes on and just who lives inside 3716 Michelle Way.
While county police have finished their investigation, the FBI's probe into this group remains open. The house is registered to Avraham Cohen, the known leader of a religious organization called S.I.S.T. that is thought by some to be cult-like.
Police raid a container of weapons appegedly for Agape Ministries. Picture: Tom Lee Source: The Advertiser Shot in the arm for crusade against the fringe religions
June 19, 2010
The raids in South Australia are causing a rethink on protection against so-called spiritual groups THE assets are frozen, arrests have been made, a huge cache of weapons and ammunition seized and the main man, convicted thief turned charismatic cult leader Rocco Leo, is in hiding. But a month after South Australian police raided more than a dozen properties associated with the bizarre Adelaide-based Agape Ministries doomsday cult, several questions remain unanswered.
Most concern Leo, the 52-year-old former coffee shop proprietor also known as Brother Roc who is presumed to be somewhere in the Pacific, most likely Fiji or Vanuatu, and who may still be looking to buy the island paradise he has promised a core group of 60 to 70 followers. Here, according to the comical story Leo concocted in Adelaide, the Agape faithful will be able to escape an evil force that is micro-chipping the world's population in the lead-up to 2012, when all humanity will be programmed for extinction.
But nobody has seen Leo for a month and the SA police haven't issued a warrant for his arrest. So it raises the question: is Leo really a dangerous fugitive? It certainly seemed that way after 90 police last month raided the Agape Ministries' fortress-like compound in the Adelaide Hills, its $5 million headquarters and several other cult-connected properties in and around the city.
The police seized about 20 illegal guns, assault batons, detonators, fuses for explosives and more than 35,000 rounds of ammunition. Follow-up raids during the next two days uncovered more weapons and a further 30,000 rounds of ammunition, though not a number of high-powered automatic and semi-automatic firearms police know exist and are anxious to locate.
According to one former cult member, the purpose of stockpiling all this firepower was to protect the cult from its enemies, who could, Leo had explained to his followers, include the police. Not surprisingly, this has seen Leo and the Agape Ministries portrayed as a Waco-in-waiting, a reference to the infamous 1993 Texas shootout that killed four FBI agents and 75 Branch Davidian followers of David Koresh, 21 of them children.
The Waco siege lasted 51 days and the Davidian arsenal included a 50-calibre cannon, machineguns and more than a million rounds of ammunition, but Detective Superintendent Jim Jeffery, head of the SA police commercial and electronic crime branch who is in charge of the Agape Ministries investigation, doesn't dismiss the comparison. "With the amount of weapons and ammunition we recovered, we have managed to defuse a high-risk situation," Jeffery says. "Whether that could have escalated into a Waco-type situation is speculative, but it is certainly a bizarre circumstance that we have here."
For independent senator Nick Xenophon, who has twice failed to convince the Senate to inquire into some allegedly abusive practices of Scientology (the last vote in March was 33-6 against with only the Greens in support), the weapons are a chilling reminder that decisive action must be taken to prevent cults getting footholds in Australian society. "Ninety police, 13 premises raided, thousands of rounds of ammunition -- what more do we need to say that we need a national debate about whether people are being protected," says Xenophon. "I mean, if this isn't a wake-up call, what is? Do we have to wait until someone is hurt or killed as a result of some of these cults before we do anything?"
Xenophon has long believed the best way to weaken the influence of cults is to limit their access to money. He says existing laws on deceit and false and misleading conduct are inadequate and fail to give full protection to cult members who are at financial risk from predators such as Leo. He wants legislation specifically targeting the brainwashing or mental manipulation strategies that cults use to squeeze money and assets from their weakest and most vulnerable followers.
However, Xenophon's previous efforts to push this agenda have floundered. Mainstream churches have been worried that their fundraising activities may be affected by any new legislation. Politicians, fearful that any action will be seen in the community as anti-religion, have steered clear. Xenophon also has faced vigorous lobbying by the Scientologists who feel (with some justification) they are the primary target.
Finally, there is the legal question of how much reform can be achieved given the Constitution's protection of religious freedom. Xenophon's response is that churches doing the right thing have nothing to fear; politicians should have greater courage and the Scientologists should be resisted. On the legal problems, he says: "Just because it's a difficult area of law reform doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fix the problem. You can have freedom of religion as well as protect people being hurt."
During the past month Xenophon has pressed his case with all manner of state and federal law officers. Some, such as South Australian Attorney-General John Rau, have been encouraging and even some old foes have shown signs of compromise.
South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has been a staunch opponent of Xenophon's attempts to outlaw Scientology, but in the wake of the Agape Ministries revelations he concedes there may be a case for some kind of anti-abuse legislation. "I would not want to see us launching some kind of inquiry into religion and ideally the existing law should catch them out," Bernardi says. "But if there are circumstances where it doesn't and there is an opportunity to be more prescriptive, then I'm open to that."
Xenophon says he's acutely aware of the need to protect individual and religious freedom and safeguard against unintended consequences of any legislation but insists the focus must be on the remedies. "When people lose their life savings, when they are suicidal because of harassment and stalking, the priority has to be how do you give protection to people against behaviour where the criminal law and civil law is not adequate," Xenophon says.
Just how well Australia's civil law works in relation to cults will be tested in two cases involving Leo and the Agape Ministries that are before South Australia's District Court. In a statement of claim filed last month, Adelaide businessman Martin Penney, a follower of Leo for 14 years, has listed losses of $1.2 million comprising $800,000 in cash, $132,000 in plant and equipment and $250,000 in labour provided to Agape Ministries at no charge.
The week before a wheelchair-bound woman whose name has been suppressed filed suit for $420,000. The woman, who has limited capacity to read and communicate because of strokes resulting from a brain tumour, claims she sold her house and gave Leo the money because he promised to take her to a secret island where she would be safe from eternal damnation.
Leo also allegedly said the island had healing waters that would make her walk again and warned she would end up in a concentration camp and be exterminated, by beheading or in a gas chamber, if she failed to hand over the money.
Penney, who made news last year when federal immigration authorities found him underpaying his Filipino guest workers and is barred from accessing Australia's guest worker sponsorship scheme for three years, also claimed that Leo represented himself as personally chosen by God to guide him to the island.
While many people may struggle to understand that level of gullibility, Xenophon says it's about vulnerability. "They're often people who have just come through a difficult period in their lives," he says. "They've suffered some kind of loss, they may have had a bereavement, they're suffering from depression. It can be a whole range of reasons. But it has to be stopped."
As part of campaign for change Xenophon has held meetings with officials of the French embassy to get a better understanding of the French anti-cult laws that he believes are world's best practice. Passed in 2001, the laws originally contemplated a new crime of mental manipulation, but this wording was replaced in the final draft with a less provocative offence of fraudulent abuse of a person's ignorance or weakness.
The law carries three years' jail and a fine of E375,000 ($535,000) for anyone found guilty of abusing the ignorance or a state of weakness of a minor or other person mentally vulnerable because of age, sickness, disability, psychic or physical deficiency or pregnancy. Also liable are those who exploit someone who has a physical or psychological dependency because of repeated pressure techniques used to affect their judgment. If this offence is carried out by cult leaders, the jail time is increased to five years.
But if this sounds the right direction to go, the French laws have been heavily criticised across Europe for their discriminatory effect on some non-conformist and non-national religious movements. It suggests Xenophon has a long road ahead of him.
In the meantime, the adequacy of Australia's existing laws will be tested in the Agape Ministries cases. This week the District Court temporarily extended its freeze of the cult's assets to cover all Agape Ministries' assets in Australia after David Riggall for the plaintiffs said he expected many other claims to be filed. Craig Caldicott for Leo argued no other claims had been lodged and the freezing order should be limited to the sums sought in the cases before the court. The matter will return to court next month.
Jeffery confirms that the Agape Ministries leadership -- primarily Leo, his girlfriend Marie Antoinette Veneziano and her brother Joe Veneziano -- have called on followers to sell all their assets and hand over money but says police had limited powers to act. "We haven't got sufficient grounds to initiate action in relation to fraud-related offences," Jeffery says. "I'm not saying there won't be people coming forward and that there won't be a need for us to take action along these lines but, as it sits at the moment, any seizure of property is in the civil arena as opposed to the results of our investigations."
Jeffery also points out that there was no restriction on cult members continuing to meet at the Adelaide Hills stronghold or other cult properties, "so long as they operate within the confines of the law".
That's a strange headline - I read it as meaning someone had actually been shot in the arm!
The ex-JonBenet Ramsey suspect who once "admitted" he killed the girl to get out of a Thailand prison, is being sought by police after having been issued a restraining order to keep him away from a teen girl, reports AP. Samantha Spiegel, 19, says Karr threatened to kill her if she told authorities he was attempting to form a "cult of little girls to have sex with him." Spiegel also claims Karr, 46, made "ongoing death threats" and "threats of sexual exploitation to children" as young as 4 in emails and instant messages.
The San Francisco Superior Court issued the restraining order on June 3 to one Alexis Valoran Reich, the name to which Karr had his legally changed. According to some reports, he is planning to have gender reassignment surgery in the near future.
Karr was not in court to receive the restraining order, and authorities are looking for him saying his whereabouts are unknown. They are trying to trace his credit card and email use. There are search warrants issued to find him, going into Google, Comcast, etc. to find out who he may be corresponding with or what he may be planning.
Loveland man who created 'cult-like' family sentenced to 60 years for sexual abuse
BY NATE TAYLOR
June 25, 2010
Virgil Rice created a "cult-like" atmosphere in his Loveland family, isolated girls from boys and manipulated the girls to believe his sexual abuse was therapy. He did all that telling his family he was acting under the duty to follow God's will, according to statements made Friday during Rice's sentencing hearing. Rice, 55, was sentenced to 60 years in prison Friday for years of sexual abuse against girls in his family after a jury in April convicted him of seven counts.
Judge Dave Williams sentenced Rice to 24 years each for crimes against two of the victims and 12 years for crimes against a third victim. Prosecutor Emily Humphrey quoted one of the victims during Friday's sentencing hearing as saying "I didn't think it was wrong. I thought it was therapy." She indicated that another victim said Rice was the only consistent figure in her life and his care was all she ever knew.
Despite his conviction, Rice vehemently denies his guilt and said in court Friday he intends to appeal the jury's decision. Williams also said Rice has filed a federal civil lawsuit against him and others in the justice system involved in his case. "I do appreciate the fact that they have experienced pain and to some extent I am responsible," Rice said of the victims. "But that does not mean I'm guilty of what they've alleged." He went on to say he didn't think it was fair that he's become the scapegoat and "designated perpetrator" for problems in the family. He also said he's a man of integrity.
Before handing down the sentence, Williams noted Rice's development of a "God complex" and a narcissistic personality. "There was a complete lack of remorse and complete narcissism that was on display during proceedings leading up to trial, during the trial and quite starkly during his statement today," Williams said.
Statements made in court Friday indicate Rice manipulated the girls in his family as young as age 10 and as old as 16, in all three instances abusing the girls for numerous years. Statements also indicated the family was "cult-like." One of the girls wrote a letter Prosecutor Renee Dock read to Williams during the hearing. She wrote that she hopes today is the end of Rice's involvement in her life. "He will never be capable of rehabilitation whether he's incarcerated or in society because he doesn't believe he's done anything wrong," she wrote in the letter.
Another victim spoke during the hearing and said she feels empty. "This experience has been very cleansing and today I feel will be the end of this whole life shadow," she said. Rice promised Williams today's sentencing hearing wouldn't be the end of his fight to prove his innocence. "It will go on and on until it's done," he said.
After Rice was arrested and charged in 2004, he fled to Spain, but was eventually located by authorities and has been incarcerated since 2007. His court proceedings were long delayed because he filed numerous legal motions and tried to represent himself. Rice is the former owner of Tech Cycle, a company that recycled computer parts. His three sons, who helped him run the business, have adamantly supported his claims of innocence and fled with him to Spain remaining in the country for a short time after his arrest while launching a website trying to prove Rice's innocence.
Family Brainwashed by Dad Struggles to Heal Marcus Wesson Raised Kids in Abusive Cult-Like Manner, Trained to Perform Suicide Pact
JAY SCHADLER, HARRY PHILLIPS and ELISSA STOHLER
July 6, 2010
click here to download 8 minute video
The San Joaquin Valley in central California is one of the world's most productive agricultural regions. It's an arid desert irrigated to make a land of plenty, where crops such as grapes and garlic are grown. But on March 12, 2004, the city of Fresno was stunned by the revelation that the devil had seemingly sowed his seed in their midst.
What started out as a routine custody dispute at a house in the west-central area of the city suddenly and inexplicably escalated into the worst mass murder in Fresno's history. Nine people were found dead inside the house, their bodies piled in a back room. In the tangled heap, there were two adults and seven young children -- three of whom were under the age of two.
Police arrested 57-year-old Marcus Wesson, who emerged from the residence with blood on his clothes. Neighbors' accounts led police to believe that Wesson controlled his family in a cult-like manner, and that he possibly had fathered several of the deceased children with his own daughters and nieces. Two of those nieces had come to the house to get their children, which ended up triggering the mass murder. But several of Wesson's surviving sons rose to his defense, telling reporters that that Wesson was a wonderful father who loved his children and never could have hurt them.
Exactly how the purported "wonderful father" also could be one of the most deranged monsters in American history is the strange question at the heart of this story.
Marcus Wesson: A Master Manipulator
The answer lay in Wesson's extraordinary power to control the minds of his wife and children. It seemed to be a power that placed him in the company of such madmen as David Koresh, who led his followers to their fiery death at Waco, Jim Jones, whose flock committed mass suicide in Guyana, and of course, Charles Manson, who turned flower children into random killers. Wesson was all of this, and more. To help understand how he was able control his family so completely, "Primetime" sat down with Wesson's wife Elizabeth Wesson and five of his surviving children.
Wesson's sons -- Adrian, Serafino and Dorian -- told ABC News correspondent Jay Schadler that only now, years after the crime, could they see their father for what he was: psychotic, delusional and narcissistic. Thirty-five-year-old Dorian Wesson told Schadler, "He said that ... if you've seen God, you've seen me." Adrian Wesson, 34, added, "He was God. That's just the way it was."
"God" wore dreadlocks, and commanded absolute obedience. Serafino Wesson, known as Fino, once sneaked a spoonful of peanut butter and received a beating with a cable wire that lasted for almost 20 minutes straight. Some punishments would last for weeks, or even months. "A 30-day punishment involved ... well, 21 hits on your person and then that's one in the morning and then one in the afternoon and one before you went to bed," said Serafino Wesson, 25. "Now imagine getting that for 30 days straight." Wesson mixed ruthlessness with indoctrination. His Bible studies and prayer sessions would last for hours. His children told ABC News that they didn't realize they were living in a hellish situation because they were born into it and had no outside influences to teach them otherwise.
Wesson's Child Bride
The roots of Wesson's obsessions snaked back four decades to the day he staged a homemade wedding ceremony. The bride, Elizabeth Wesson, was just 8 years old. Elizabeth Wesson told ABC News that she believed Marcus Wesson when he said the Lord chose her to be his wife. She reveled in the attention he showered upon her. "He said that I belonged to him -- that I was his wife already," Elizabeth Wesson said. By 14, Elizabeth Wesson was pregnant, and by 26 she had given birth eleven times.
Over the years, Marcus Wesson collected bizarre beliefs and welded them together to create his own vision, which he imposed upon his growing family. He wrote his own version of the Bible, in which he claimed that Jesus was a vampire. He told his family "the end was near." For years, he warned his wife and children to prepare for the day when the devil with a badge and a blue uniform would show up at their door. Until then, he sequestered and home-schooled the family in a series of hideaways along the California coast. One of the places was Tomales Bay, south of San Francisco, where he anchored a rusted-out sailboat and hid the children.
Gypsy Wesson, 26, told ABC News that Marcus Wesson would leave the children unattended on the boat for four or five months at a time below deck so no one would see them and ask why they weren't in school. "It felt like being in a prison," Gypsy Wesson told Schadler. "Very depressing -- like, hopeless. And you felt trapped ... nowhere to go."
Two hours south of Tomales Bay was another hideout, in a remote spot high in the Santa Cruz mountains. Wesson had the family pitch a huge army surplus tent and they lived in the squalid camp for the better part of 12 years, away from the prying eyes of neighbors, social workers and police. For the boys, Bible studies were enforced with whips and sticks. For the girls, Wesson was teaching them a different kind of lesson: something he called "loving."
Gypsy Wesson and Kiani Wesson told ABC News that their father started touching them sexually when they were seven or eight years old. She said she felt it was wrong, but Kiani Wesson didn't know otherwise. "I didn't know anything else and I thought it was all right," said Kiani Wesson, 33. When asked why their mother didn't stop the abuse, Kiani Wesson said that she felt her mother was powerless. "She'd been with my dad since she was eight years old," said Kiani Wesson. "So I felt that she was pretty much, you know, caught up in the same thing."
Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, director of the Hallowell Centers in New York and Boston, watched "Primetime's" interviews with the Wesson children and said Wesson used fear as a manipulative tool. "What he basically did was create this crucible of fear," said Hallowell. "He used fear, extreme fear, to get these kids to act completely counter to their self-interest."
As the kids grew older, they were allowed to get jobs as long as they turned all their money over to their father. "Such was his control over their minds that he could even send them out into the world and they didn't blow the whistle," said Hallowell. "All they had to do was walk into the police station or even just tell their boss ... about what's going on at home and the jig would have been up."
Routine Domestic Call Turns Deadly
On March 12, 2004, what began as a routine domestic call -- two distraught mothers barred from seeing their children inside 761 West Hammond Avenue -- quickly escalated. Two of Wesson's nieces, who had borne his children, were there to take them back. Raw police audio from the scene captured the voices of the two women screaming at Wesson for their children. Wesson stood at the door, telling the women that he wouldn't give up the kids "under kidnapping conditions," and calmly told police he would cooperate. Then he disappeared into the house.
Two of the children inside the house, 8-year-old Illabelle and 13-month-old Jeva, belonged to Kiani Wesson, Marcus Wesson's oldest daughter. Kiani Wesson was inside the house that day, and watched as her children, along with her closest sister Lise and six other Wesson kids, were led into a back bedroom. She would never see them again. No one is exactly sure what happened next. Police claim they heard no gunshots.
Kiani Wesson tearfully told ABC News that she thinks Sebhrenah Wesson, her 25-year-old sister, pulled the trigger and killed her son, sister, nieces and nephews. "I think that he had her take everybody, and then he took her life," said a tearful Kiani Wesson. Then Marcus Wesson reappeared at the front door of his house, which was by now surrounded by cops and screaming family members, who had feared the worst when Marcus went inside.
Fresno Police Officer Eloy Escareno arrived on the scene just as Wesson was emerging from the house, hands in the air, his clothes stained with blood. As Marcus Wesson was arrested and led away, Officer Escareno entered the house and was the first to confirm everyone's fears: nine bodies lay in a tangled pile on the floor: Sebhrenah, 25, Elizabeth "Lise," 17, Illabelle, 8, Jonathan and Aviv, both 7, Ethan, 4, and Marshey, Sedona and Jeva all less than two years old. Sebhrenah and Lise were the daughters of Marcus Wesson and Elizabeth Wesson. All the other children were kids Wesson fathered either with his daughters or nieces. "I broke down and started crying," said Officer Escareno. "I was trying to wipe away the tears ... but the father in me was ... just overwhelmed at that point."
As news of the murder exploded across Fresno, most of the media was focused on the killer in dreadlocks. But local TV reporter, Alysia Sofios, was fascinated by the survivors who were defending their father. Within days, Sofios arranged a meeting with Fino Wesson in an alley behind a local burger joint. At that point, all he could think about was defending his dad. He was determined to clear his name, even though Marcus Wesson now was facing charges of murder, rape and sexual assault.
Like cult members not yet deprogrammed, his sons were loyal. But Sofios saw beyond the robotic exteriors and knew the Wessons were hurting. She also knew Elizabeth, Gypsy and Kiani had never been to school and had no money -- so she invited them to share her apartment. But the decision to harbor the Wesson women was not without consequence. She had crossed an ethical boundary that every reporter knows. "I became part of the story," Sofios told ABC News. "I'm not supposed to do that. I even knew ... I wasn't supposed to do it. I was even telling myself I wasn't supposed to do it ... the minute I hung up the phone. ... I kind of sat on my bed and mourned the loss of my reporting career."
Today, Sofios still works at the same Fresno TV station and is still roommates with Gypsy Wesson. In fact, Sofios considers herself part of the family. She's written a book about their incredible story, called "Where Hope Begins." Both Kiani and Gypsy Wesson have new daughters of their own, and Gypsy Wesson's little girl is named in honor Alysia. Fino Wesson and his wife have two children, and one on the way. Looking for a way to honor the murdered children, he has set his sights on becoming a police officer.
In June 2005, a jury convicted Wesson of nine counts of murder and multiple counts of rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced to death row at San Quentin State Prison. Elizabeth Wesson and the kids no longer have any contact with Marcus Wesson, though he still lives unrepentantly in their nightmares.
Cult leader and parricide suspect now a congressman
By Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—Ruben Ecleo Jr., leader of a religious cult called the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, is now a congressman, based on the official list released Thursday by the House of Representatives. Ecleo will represent Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte and will replace his mother, Glenda, whose term ended on June 30.
Ecleo, a former mayor of San Jose town in Dinagat Island, is on trial in connection with the brutal killing of his wife, Alona Bacolod-Ecleo, in 2002. Alona was at that time a medical student at one of the local universities in Cebu. Hearing of his case has been suspended for more than a year now after Judge Geraldine Faith Econg inhibited from his case. Ecleo has been out on bail citing health reasons.
Sex orgy cult leader arrested in Russia
July 8, 2010
Russian investigators have arrested the former psychiatrist leader of more than 100 people who held "uncontrolled" sex orgies in southern Russia, media reported on Thursday. Members of the so-called Self Improvement Foundation "were encouraged with psychological pressure to have uncontrolled sexual relations with each other, including in the presence of minors", investigators said in a statement.
The group's leader was a psychiatrist who had worked for several years at a hospital in the southern city of Orenburg, RIA Novosti news agency reported. Russian tabloids published a photograph of a burly, bearded man, named as Vyacheslav Vesnin.
News website Lifenews Ru posted a video confiscated by investigators that shows a girl performing a striptease on stage in front of a young man. Another video showed young children reciting obscene verses while adults laugh and clap.
The members did not eat meat or drink alcohol and some spent long periods living at the leader's house, Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported, citing investigators. A total of 108 members were detained during a session at a camp site, the head of Orenburg's anti-extremism police squad, Bazargalei Yermekov, told Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Police searched the leader's three-storey brick mansion and confiscated more than 500 photographs, Yermekov said. The group's records listed a total of 150 members, including 12 minors. Investigators have opened criminal charges into immoral acts and organising a group that infringed on people's rights and mental health.
Several cults have gained large followings in Russia in recent years. In 2007-2008 an Orthodox Christian group spent eight months in an underground bunker in the Penza region of central Russia. They believed that the world was about to end. In Siberia, a former traffic policeman who has proclaimed himself as a new Messiah and dresses in white robes has thousands of devoted followers.
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