Gwinnett County, Georgia — Police have added more charges against the six people already accused of beating, starving and killing a woman in the basement of a Gwinnett County home.
The suspects claim they were a religious group, according to police.
But police are now calling their group a criminal street gang and have charged them with “gang activity” in addition to the murder charges.
So far, the six murder suspects have not had a chance to tell their story publicly. But from what police have said, they call themselves “Soldiers of Christ.”
An expert in cults said all of this matches a pattern.
“I hear about this constantly,” Rick Alan Ross said, who follows cults worldwide, and is the author of “Cults Inside Out.” "There are often these kind of tragic circumstances."
According to Gwinnett County Police, earlier this summer a woman left her home in South Korea to join what she thought was a religious organization in Georgia, in Gwinnett County, a half-a-world away.
She ended up at a home in Gwinnett.
Around Aug. 3, police said, five people in their 20s and one who is 15--calling themselves Soldiers of Christ--imprisoned her in the basement, beat her, withheld food from her, and she died.
When police discovered her body this week in the trunk of a car, they said she weighed 70 pounds.
Ross said Friday that that’s how cults often work.
“People are constantly being drawn in,” Ross said. “No one intentionally joins a destructive cult. So there is this element of deception, a kind of bait and switch con, where people are drawn in by a name (like ‘Soldiers of Christ’) that sounds very positive, very mainstream. And then only when they become involved more deeply in the group is it revealed to them, in increments, what they're really getting involved with.”
Ross said he sees it again and again, all over the world.
“There have been many deaths tied to destructive cults, starvation deaths, deaths due to extreme living conditions, beatings, medical neglect," he said. "And I have no doubt that as this story unravels, we're going to learn more about this particular group and who led it.”
Police, for now, are saying they believe they’ve arrested everyone involved in the woman’s mistreatment and death.