Cult Suspect Was LA Student Priest

AP, April 7, 2000
By Deborah Hastings

NEW YORK (AP) - Before he was wanted for murder in one of modern history's worst cult massacres, Dominic Kataribabo was a student priest in the Los Angeles Archdiocese, living near the ocean and going to graduate school.

The ordained priest from a small Ugandan diocese was granted ``sacramental ministry'' by the clergy in Los Angeles, who helped sponsor his full scholarship to Loyola Marymount University, one of the top U.S. Jesuit colleges, church and school officials said Thursday.

Also Thursday, on the other side of the world, arrest warrants were issued for Kataribabo, 32, and five other Ugandans in connection with the worst cult-related killings in modern history.

So far, police have found 924 bodies. More than half were inside the nailed-shut doors of a village church. It was set on fire March 17. Many of the caged followers were still alive at the time.

The indicted leaders are believed to be in hiding. Thursday's warrants are the first issued in Uganda's 3-week-old investigation. The death toll now exceeds 1978's Jonestown massacre, which claimed the lives of 913 Peoples Temple followers.

Little had been known about Kataribabo, a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who helped lead the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. He preached that the world would end Dec. 31, 1999.

In 1987, Kataribabo was awarded a master's degree in religious studies at Loyola Marymount. His grades were mostly Bs. He took a few education courses.

``He seemed to be pretty ordinary,'' said university spokesman Norm Schneider, reviewing Kataribabo's records. ``He seems undistinguished.''

Last week in Uganda, under Kataribabo's 10-room house, police found 81 bodies beneath a newly poured cement floor. In the backyard, covered by a patch of sugarcane, were the strangled, mutilated remains of 74 people.

Los Angeles Archdiocese records show Kataribabo was awarded a scholarship under a still-operating university program benefiting Third World priests.

The archdiocese contributes by providing housing to about seven or eight foreign clerics awarded the yearly scholarships. Kataribabo lived in the rectory of St. Anthony's parish, in the coastal city of El Segundo, said archdiocese spokesman Father Gregory Coiro.

Kataribabo left on July 10, 1987. ``He said he was returning to his own country,'' Coiro said after reviewing Kataribabo's file. There were no improprieties listed, Coiro said.

The young man was nominated for the Loyola Marymount scholarship by his local bishop in the Kampala archdiocese.

Neither Schneider nor Coiro knew Kataribabo.

The warrants also name two of the sect's most notorious figures: ``The Prophet'' Joseph Kibwetere, and former banana-beer peddler Credonia Mwerinde, known as ``The Programmer.''

They are charged with 10 counts of murder. If convicted, they could be hanged.

The indictments represent the number of identified bodies. Most victims were so badly burned or rotted they cannot be named. Authorities had them placed in new graves.

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