- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

BLYTHE, Calif. - The crew-cut young man stares into the video camera and recites a plan to kill his mother, her husband and anybody else affiliated with the Family International, a church with roots in the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Between expletives, the man vows revenge for abuse he says was inflicted on him, his sister and “thousands” of other children by older members of the group.

“Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people,” Ricky Rodriguez says on the video, as he loads bullets into a handgun and admiringly strokes a hunting knife. “I’ve seen how ugly humans can get.”

Hours later, Rodriguez — groomed to inherit leadership of the Family, a church once known as the Children of God — stabbed to death a prominent former member in Arizona, then drove to this California desert town and shot himself in the head.

The January murder-suicide has refocused attention on a group accused of rampant sexual, physical and psychological abuse of child members from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.

“They’ve left a trail of broken minds and bodies,” said Daniel Roselle, a former member from Los Angeles.

The group was founded in the late 1960s by a self-styled prophet from Oakland named David Berg, whose preaching attracted a following among Southern California hippies. Mr. Berg, who called himself Moses and preached free love, created a network of communes known as the Children of God. Members cut ties with their families and were encouraged to have sex with each other and with strangers to attract new members.

A church spokeswoman in Washington, Claire Borowik, acknowledged that some adults might have had sex with children before public criticism prompted a prohibition in 1986. But Miss Borowik described the suicide of Rodriguez, 29, and his killing of Angela Smith, 51, as a tragic aberration.

The Family gets singled out because of its “more liberal attitude toward sexuality,” Miss Borowik said. Among other things, the church believes couples can have consensual sex outside of marriage.

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