Ex-members of military-style Christian sect recall beatings, abuse

NBC News WMGT/August 28, 2017

James Green waits in the parking lot of the Cibola County Magistrate Court in Grants, N.M., on Thursday. Adron Gardner / Gallup Independent via AP file

“They kept everybody in line by keeping us hungry and tired,” she said. “We would get awakened in the middle of the night for prayer sessions. They would limit our access to our families on the outside. They would even require us to change our names, which is why Lila’s son-in-law goes by Peter Green and not his real name.”

A former sect member named Johanna, who asked that her last name not be revealed, said she was a troubled teenager when she joined in 1984 and finally fled in 2003.

“General Jim has a bit of heart compared to her,” she said, referring to Green. “At first it was her and him running everything. But by the time I left, it was just her. I was pregnant with the child of another cult member and I knew I would be punished if I stayed. I had to leave my two other kids behind to get away.”

Asked why she didn’t leave earlier, Johanna answered, “I believed Lila when she said I would go to hell.”

Julianna Gudino was identified in the court papers as one of the people interviewed by investigators. She said she was in the sect for 20 years. The authorities first got wind of what was allegedly happening on the compound when the girl from Uganda was brought to a local hospital in either 2007 or 2008 with a broken leg, according to Gudino.

“She had rickets and her legs were really fragile,” said Gudino, who lived on the compound when the girl was there.

The child was removed from Green’s custody by the state Children Youth & Families Department and placed into foster care, she added.

What happened to the girl afterward was not immediately clear.

“Due to New Mexico state law, we are unable to release any information regarding any prior investigations that the agency is involved in,” CYFD spokesman Henry Varela said. “We do currently have an active investigation into this matter and will continue to work closely with law enforcement within our legal means.”

Rick Alan Ross, an expert on cults, said he is very familiar with this group and said it runs on the backs of the free labor done by the children. He said the grownups are sent out to sell baked goods, picture frames and other trinkets they manufacture and the money goes back to Green.

“In my opinion, they fit the profile of a classic destructive cult,” he said. “It’s run by Deborah Green. She is the charismatic personality. Her husband is subordinate. Whatever comes out of Deborah’s mouth is the word of God. Everybody’s wrong except Deborah.”

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