Devotion to a sect, then slow starvation

How could three members of a Miami family starve to death? Letters found in their apartment offer insight into the bizarre case in Apt. B.

On the wall was a President Supermarkets calendar with a kitten on the cover, and the days X’ed out, one by one.

In the bedroom, two women — a mother and her adult daughter — lay in side-by-side beds covered in blankets. Near the front door was the man of the house, Daniel Boli-Gbagra.

Like the women — his wife and stepdaughter — Boli-Gbagra, 48, was dead, wasted away in what police say appears to have been a case of slow, collective starvation.

Raelian Movemement
While this article deals with apparent followers of the Raelians movement, the actions of Daniel Boli-Gbagra and his family do not reflect the doctrines and practices of the Raelians
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Boli-Gbagra, apparently the last to die, had stuffed clothes under the door frame.

In the white-tiled, one-bedroom Miami apartment were books and hand-scrawled notes attesting to the family’s devotion to a sect that believes in extraterrestrial beings and human cloning. As their lives flickered out, they wrote vivid, rambling letters in French invoking their faith and cataloging their physical and mental state.

To homicide investigators, death is a part of everyday life. They are summoned when a corpse is discovered and attempt to piece together the puzzle.

The strange deaths of Boli-Gbagra, his wife Magali Gauthier, 48 and her 23-year-old daughter, Tara Andreze-Louison, have yielded no such closure, just questions that have cops and the staff of the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office genuinely perplexed.

On the morning of April 13, a foul odor brought police to Apartment B.

It appeared that Gauthier had been the first to die, followed by her daughter, then Boli-Gbagra.

Investigators believe the deaths may have been spaced out over nearly two months.

Among the items found in the sparsely furnished apartment: several French magazines and books — including Let’s Welcome the Extraterrestrials and Yes to Human Cloning — connected with the Raelian movement.

The movement was born in 1973 when then race-car journalist Claude Vorilhon met an extraterrestrial in a French “volcano park” and was enlightened, he said. Vorilhon took the name Rael.

The sect believes life was created by the “Elohim” — scientists who came from another planet.

Elohim is the word for “God” in Hebrew, but Raelians say it really means “those who came from the sky.”

The Raelians, who built a headquarters near Montreal called UFOland, gained notoriety in 2002 when a scientist linked to the movement claimed to have created the first human clone. The announcement created a sensation, then was revealed to be a hoax.

The Raelians’ website says there are 70,000 members in 97 countries, though experts think that could be grossly exaggerated.

Handwritten notes inside the apartment detailed the family’s slow and agonizing decline.

“Today it has been eight days since we haven’t had anything to eat,” read one entry. “We don’t have any money either. Without recourse, we will be headed toward death.”

The letter writer beseeched “the hand of Elohim to come and help us. That was our constant prayer. . . . We are messengers here to accomplish the mission on behalf of the creatures of Elohim.”

As the days passed, the pleas became more desperate.

Detectives believe from the letters that the family “somehow thought they’d be provided for,” said Sgt. Eunice Cooper with Miami homicide. “How that provision was supposed to come is a mystery.”

Susan Palmer, a Montreal sociologist who has studied the Raelians for more than 15 years, said the idea of asking Elohim for help does not fit in with Raelian doctrine.

“Rael is the only one who talks to the Elohim,” she said. “I would guess they’re likely newcomers [to the movement]. They don’t really understand the culture. It doesn’t fit in with the way the religion works. Raelians don’t pray to the Elohim to get a job or money or food.”

– Source / Full Story: Devotion to a sect, then slow starvation, Jennifer Lebovich, Miami Herald, Nov. 6, 2010 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday November 8, 2010.
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