A religious sect that some say promoted sexual contact with children is coming under intense scrutiny after a murder-suicide in the Arizona desert. Some members of that group – called “The Family” – are on the board of directors of two local charities.
Angela Smith was a longtime member of The Family who sat on the board of The Family Care Foundation in Dulzura. She was murdered three weeks ago by a former member of the religious sect who said he was sexually abused as a child.
A peaceful ranch nestled in the hills of Dulzura in the East County. It used to be a bed and breakfast called Brookside Farm. Now, it’s home to a Christian missionary group called The Family Care Foundation.
Dulzura neighbors say the people who live on the ranch are active in the community.
“They’ll donate their time playing music, volunteer work, playing Santa for the kids or whatever,” neighbor Yvonne Reese said.
Further north in Escondido are the offices of another local charity called Activated Ministries. They distribute Christian books and videos.
Both of these local nonprofits have close ties to a worldwide religious sect called The Family.
Twenty-nine-year-old Ricky Rodriguez grew up in The Family. His father founded the group in the late 1960s. Formerly known as the Children of God, leaders advocated communal living and open sexuality – even among children.
In a home video, Rodriguez lays out his plan to get revenge for years of sexual abuse he suffered as a child. On January 8, Rodriguez stabbed 51-year-old Angela Smith to death in his Tucson apartment, and later shot himself in the head.
Smith helped raise Ricky – in a sexually-charged environment. In 1997, she also served as a director at the Family Care Foundation in Dulzura. The group has ties not only to The Family, but Activated Ministries in Escondido, and a Web site called Donate A Car To Charity.com. The executive director of the Family Care Foundation is Larry Corley.
Corley declined to answer questions on camera about the Family Care Foundation, its possible financial connection to the family, or the murder of Angela Smith.
Another longtime Family member, Grant Montgomery, is listed as the president of the Dulzura charity.
“Grant Montgomery was known as Gary, and he was the prime minister of The Family,” said former Family member John La Mattery. “So, he was one of the top three in The Family, up until the day he started Family Care Foundation.”
La Mattery also grew up in The Family. He says he was sexually abused by a 26-year-old woman in Japan when he was nine years old.
“The reality is it did happen, and they done nothing to assist us to bring justice to the perpetrators that brought this on,” La Mattery said.
The Family has acknowledged that some child abuse took place years ago. The group banned all sexual contact with children in 1986, and issued an apology, but never named the abusers.
“Some cases did come to light where there was some sexual inappropriateness that young people were uncomfortable with,” said The Family spokeswoman Claire Borowik. “When these cases came to light, it became clear that there had to be some very stringent policies.”
Now, in the wake of the recent murder-suicide, former members want The Family to come clean.
“It’s unfortunate that it has come to this for The Family to hopefully change and reform their policies and practices,” La Mattery said.
Former members have called on The Family to turn over the names of all the people who were involved in sexual abuse of children.
So far, The Family has not made any names public.