N.M. sect leader, jailed awaiting court appearance, refuses food

SANTA FE, N.M.—A self-described Messiah arrested for alleged sex crimes against minors remained jailed Wednesday, refusing to eat or drink, authorities said.

Wayne Bent, 66, was in the city-county jail in the small northeastern New Mexico town of Clayton, awaiting his first court appearance.

The leader of an apocalyptic sect headquartered in a remote area near the New Mexico-Colorado line, Bent was charged Tuesday with three counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Strong City
Theologically, Strong City and The Lord Our Righteousness Church is a cult of Christianity
Sociologically, the group has cultic elements as well

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According to an affidavit for the arrest warrant, Bent—who calls himself Michael Travesser—touched three underage female followers, one of whom was 12, when they lay naked with him.

Police Chief Scott Julian said Bent had turned down food and water since he was jailed.

“He is refusing everything,” Julian said. “His statement was, ‘You need to take the food and juice out of my cell. I don’t want it.'”

Julian said Bent is “extremely thin.”

“Right now I don’t feel there is a medical emergency. He is not complaining of any sickness,” Julian said. “We don’t feel he is in need of any medical attention, but we’re watching him really closely.”

Bent was allowed to meet briefly on Wednesday with his son, Jeff Bent, who is also part of the sect. Julian said the younger Bent was concerned about his father’s health.

Wayne Bent was keeping to himself and not talking to the handful of other inmates in the jail, Julian said.

Bent was scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in magistrate court on Thursday.

The incidents allegedly occurred in 2006 and 2007. Bent is the leader of The Lord Our Righteousness Church, which has occupied the former ranch since 2000. Church members call the site Strong City.

In a posting on the sect’s Web site, a follower identified as Emma said Bent was arrested “on false charges, but this is all a part of God’s plan.”

“The earth has much reason for fear now,” the posting said. “The coming events will not be pleasant ones for those who have unjustly charged the Son of God.”

Bent has acknowledged having sex with followers and lying naked with virgins, but he denies any children or adults were molested at the community. He has said the virgins asked for sex and he refused.

The charges grew out of a state investigation. The Children, Youth and Families Department removed three teenagers—two of the girls named in the affidavit and a boy—from Strong City in late April. Authorities interviewed them, along with another teenage girl who had left the site earlier.

Bent—whose adopted name Travesser is the name of a creek in the area—is a former Seventh-day Adventist minister who separated from that church in 1987 and formed The Lord Our Righteousness movement. He announced in 2000 that he is the Messiah.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday May 8, 2008.
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