‘Messiah’ Cult Leader Arrested
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The “Messiah” is back in jail.
Union County sheriff’s deputies arrested cult leader Wayne Bent at his northern New Mexico compound Wednesday afternoon after a judge here issued a bench warrant when Bent failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing.
Bent and his followers in The Lord Our Righteousness Church have been fasting to protest charges that Bent had illegal sexual contact with underage girls at his Strong City compound near Des Moines.
And his congregation believes they will ascend to heaven tonight, Jeff Bent, the church leader’s son, said Thursday. “We don’t anticipate any future beyond Oct. 31,” he said.
Wayne Bent, who says he’s been anointed by God as the Messiah, was a no-show for a Las Vegas motions hearing in his criminal case. State District Judge Gerald E. Baca, who had specifically asked Bent to appear at the hearing in person, ordered that Bent be arrested when only his defense attorney showed up. Bent recently promised to stop cooperating with court proceedings.
Under Baca’s order, Bent was to be taken first to a Union County medical center for a physical and psychological evaluation.
Bent told the Journal in a recent interview that he has not eaten since Oct. 16 and was planning to go completely without water, beginning today. All of Bent’s followers at the compound — 45 adults — are following his example and some stopped drinking water last weekend, he said.
Jeff Bent said by telephone Thursday that his father’s “thinking is there will be no trial.”
Wayne Bent’s followers believe that midnight tonight ends their “Year of Jubilee,” with a deliverance by God from their “earthly life,” Jeff Bent said.
“We are glorified, given new bodies and ascend to heaven,” he said.
The Year of Jubilee is “the year of judgment when the last trumpet is heard from God and God’s people are set free from their earthly bondage,” he added.
The window for God’s deliverance ends at midnight and he fully expects to be delivered by God and has no plans beyond that, Jeff Bent said.
The church members believe “that if (the deliverance) doesn’t happen, they don’t want to go on living.”
He said does not mean they will commit suicide, just that “they want to stop sustaining life.”
If the health of the church members comes into question because of their fasts, it doesn’t look like the state is going to intervene any time soon. “It’s not the obligation of the district attorney’s office to check on the welfare of the people at Strong City,” said assistant district attorney Emilio J. Chavez during Wednesday’s court hearing.
That’s a different tack than the DA’s office took in a court filing last week, when a prosecutor asked for a judge’s approval to make welfare checks at the Strong City compound on grounds that Bent’s followers may not be “competent” because they’re under his influence.
Jeff Bent said some relatives of the church members have shown up at the compound to try to take fasting members away, but they have not been allowed onto the property.
The legal question before Baca on Wednesday was to consider a change of venue for Bent’s upcoming trial, which the judge granted. Bent was scheduled to begin a weeklong trial Nov. 17 in Clayton, and it will now be in Taos at an undetermined date.