Ex-religious sect member recounts her experience

KOB 4 News, New Mexico/August 25, 2017

By Brittany Costello

Albuquerque, New Mexico  -- A former member of a paramilitary religious sect at the center of a New Mexico child sex abuse case speaks out. It comes as a judge refuses to lower bond for two of its leaders.

The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps, located in a remote area of Cibola County, was raided on Sunday. Law enforcement said the organization has actively hidden some children from the state with their births never reported and no birth certificates ever issued.

Eight people have been arrested and 11 children, some without identification, were picked up by authorities. Friday in court, magistrate Judge Larry Diaz kept the bond at $500,000 each for co-leader Deborah Green and high-ranking leader Peter Green. The judge decided both suspects were flight risks.

“It breaks my heart to see these people so diluted because I was under that same delusion,” said Julie Gudino, a former member of the organization.

After spending 20 years as a member of that sect, Gudino said those arrests and charges were a long time coming. Once living near Fence Lake, that woman moved from the compound 13 years ago.

From abuse to neglect, Gudino said her time in this organization has not only destroyed her family, but now she's left with agonizing memories that she says will never go away.

A few buildings are nestled among the trees in a remote area of Cibola County, there's not much to see near Fence Lake, New Mexico. But some believe this land is holy, a place designed for God's bravest soldiers.

"We were told that God seated his throne over Fence Lake, that was where God’s authority would come to the rest of the world," Gudino said.

For the Aggressive Christianity Mission Training Corps, that is home. For them, it’s a place to learn God's word, even train for what leaders refer to as special missions.

"No one knows exactly what goes on inside that compound," said Rick Alan Ross, a cult specialist.  "It's very isolated. There were rumors that people died out there and were simply buried out there."

To Gudino, the arrest of eight sect members on allegations of abuse, even involving a death, was no surprise. In fact, she says it's been a long time coming.

"From the gate, from the very beginning, we were brainwashed," she said.

Gudino joined the group in 1984 when she was just 17.

"When I first joined the group, I was very young and gullible and naïve," she said. "They married me off to another member of the group when I was 18 years old," she said. "I was in love with this person. I had adopted them as my family. I had trusted everything in my life to them."

Cut off from the outside world and her biological family, Gudino said she spent the next 20 years under a spell of sorts. She said the group started in California, moved to Oregon, then eventually ended up in New Mexico. Every time police would sniff around, she said they would pack up and move.

"The kids were always kind of moved back and forth when police would investigate, whenever CPS would investigate," she said.

Life wasn't easy. She said she was separated from her son, sometimes for years.

"My husband had gotten a report that he was being abused. So he was being punished, he was being put in a cellar room and left there for 24-hours without food or care," she said. "Then there were some allegations of sexual abuse."

Still, she stood by her sect, believing like one of her leaders, James Green, it was for the greater good.

"So when we want to, say, brainwash people to believe that Jesus Christ, as the Lord, I don't see anything wrong with that," said Green, one of the leaders of the religious organization.

Gudino said she was driven by fear and retribution.

"When I was in trouble, I was locked away in a trailer and not fed any food and was told I was this and this and that, and thrown in there with my own son with no heat, no water, no toilet,” she said.

Gudino left in 2004. She hopes these arrests, are a wakeup call.

"As far as the memories, I’m tormented in my dreams," she said. "I’m tormented because I don’t have the love of my son like I would because he blames me for having him there, which I’m so sorry for."

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