Two Christian sect leaders face more charges in New Mexico

Associated Press/May 2, 2018

Grants — Two leaders of a paramilitary religious sect with anti-Semitic leanings and rocked by child sexual abuse allegations are facing new charges.

Deborah and James Green, leaders of the Aggressive Christian Mission Training Corps in western New Mexico, are facing new charges of tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, the Gallup Independent reports .

Those charges were added to the 18 filed against each of the Greens, alleging kidnapping and child abuse, among others. The new charges allege the Greens attempted to hide children after a raid of their commune by sheriff's deputies, and both conspired with another person to commit tampering with evidence.

The married couple has said they've done nothing wrong.

Last year, authorities raided the sect's secluded Fence Lake, New Mexico, compound over concerns of child abuse. The Cibola County Sheriff's Office began an investigation after 13-year-old Enoch Miller died from a probable infectious disease.

Authorities said the trustees of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps own thousands of acres of land and benefited from a wealthy high-ranking member who aided them in avoiding law enforcement agencies by hiding children.

Those holdings and regular deceptions by leaders, authorities said, made it difficult for the small Cibola County Sheriff's Office to investigate allegations of child abuse that former members say went on for years.

Undersheriff Michael Munk said his department's two-year investigation into the militant sect turned up allegations by former members who said the group treated followers like slaves and often physically beat children who had no records of being born.

After the raid, deputies arrested four more members in two vans filled with 11 children. The sheriff's office said the members, under investigation for not reporting the birth of children, were seeking to flee to the sect's Colorado location.

A number of members face various charges ranging from child abuse to bribery and not reporting a birth.

All have pleaded not guilty.

The Greens opened Free Love Ministries in 1982 with four communal houses in Sacramento, California. The Greens had little ministry training but attracted about 50 members and operated a military structure like the Salvation Army.

Maura Alana Schmierer, a former member, later sued the group for locking her in a shed without a toilet and for forcing her to give up legal custody of three of her children. A judge in 1989 awarded her $1.08 million. But the group fled California for Oregon and later resurfaced near El Paso, Texas, and then in western New Mexico.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the sect as a hate group after it published anti-Muslim and anti-gay stories in pamphlets and on its website.

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