More than 100 people who were raised in a controversial religious cult that once advocated sex with children gathered in San Diego March 26 to remember one of their own after a brutal murder-suicide that brought back painful memories of child abuse inside the cult.
By all accounts, 29-year-old Ricky Rodriguez was a gentle, kind young man. He was remembered at an emotional memorial service on Mission Bay by friends, family and his widow.
“In his heart, he chose a path,” said widow Elixcia Rodriguez. “At the end of the day, he know I loved him.”
But the kind words and soft music are in stark contrast to the way Rodriguez died. On January 8, Rodriguez stabbed 34-year-old Angela Smith to death in the Arizona desert and later shot himself in the head.
Smith was Ricky’s nanny as a child, and a longtime member of the controversial sex cult called “The Family“. In a home video, Rodriguez laid out his plan to murder Smith – as revenge, he said – for years of sexual abuse he suffered as a child growing up in The Family.
His sister, who spoke at the memorial, says she too was abused growing up in the cult.
“Raising us as kids in that abusive environment was wrong,” Davida Kelly said. “This is the result when you do that to your children.”
In the wake of the murder-suicide, other children of The Family are coming forward with their own stories of child abuse. The are calling on the current leaders of The Family — which still operates as a worldwide missionary group – to publicly name the abusers.
“They need to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement and expose the child molesters in their group,” said Don Irwin, who was raised in The Family.
Most who attended the service do not condone the violence Rodriguez committed. But they say his violent death will increase public awareness of their painful upbringing.
Current leaders of The Family say they officially banned sexual contact with children in 1984, and have apologized to the victims. But they have not publicly named members who have been accused of child abuse.