January 17, 2005

Fringe Group at Center of Deaths

Los Angeles Times

By Larry B. Stammer, Times Staff Writer

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.

Posted by kshaw at January 17, 2005 01:24 PM