Family of religious sect member seeking answers

KOB TV-4 News, New Mexico/August 26, 2017

By Brittany Costello

Albuquerque, New Mexico – Last week KOB reported on an investigation into child sex abuse allegations at a paramilitary religious sect in Cibola County. Deputies raided the compound – which belongs to the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps – last Sunday.

So far, eight people have been arrested and 11 children, some without birth certificates, have been picked up by authorities.

The death of a 12-year-old child at that compound prompted Sunday's raid. But Saturday, the Cibola County Sheriff's Office said it found two bodies buried on the land about a year ago.

Both deaths were reported and investigated until it was determined those people died of natural causes.

Still, one family still has questions as to what exactly happened leading up to their deaths.

The family of one of those two individuals – Martha Chavarria – was informed Friday of her death, the news coming in the form of an email from a former sect member.

“She pretty much decided that this is where she wanted to be,” said Lucy Chavarria, Martha’s sister. “She wanted to serve God. I remember her saying that it was a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Chavarria said the last time she saw her sister was in the 1980s when she left home for a new life. That life brought her to the compound in Fence Lake, New Mexico, where she met another woman – a former member, Julie Gudino.

“You’re under this fear. You’re under this fear that if you fall out of their grace, you’re going to fall out of God’s grace and then you would be considered an enemy,” Gudino told KOB last week.

She said it was a brutal experience. Illness was treated as a sin; so many people wouldn't seek treatment.

“Take accountability for all the people they've hurt,” said Gudino about the recent leaders of the sect being arrested. “Not to mention my own friends that are buried there, that are dead on that property they don't have a voice to speak up. That kills me inside.”

An end to a search

Chavarria said she had been doing some research to find out where her sister might be – for their mother’s sake.

“My parents are interested in finding out her well-being and how she’s doing, if she's still there,” she said.

When she learned Friday that one of those deaths was her 57-year-old sister, Martha, she found even more questions than answers.

“It all comes into play with everything that's been going on this week,” she said. “I mean, was my sister abused? Did she really die, supposedly, of natural causes, or maybe she was abused? There are a lot of things in question, especially with our niece,” Chavarria said.

Her family said Martha's daughter was with her at the compound, and is still there.

“Right now we just know that she’s grown, she’s an adult, and we just want to basically let her know that she does have family,” Chavarria said. “I don’t think she knows that she has family right now.” 

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos