ABC News 20/20: Revenge Against Religious Sect

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Editor's note: Some names have been partially redacted to protect individual privacy or for other reasons at the discretion of the editors of xFamily.org.

Revenge Against Religious Sect

ABC News 20/20/2007-02-02



Following is a transcript of the video shown on the right.
Download: Video iconABC News 20/20: Revenge Against Religious Sect (41:52, 131MB)

JOHN STOSSEL (ABC NEWS)

(OC) This past hour, you've seen that revenge can be sweet, sort of, a kind of rough justice. But it can also be very destructive. When thoughts of vengeance fester for years, they can build to a nasty flashpoint.

ELIZABETH VARGAS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) In the next hour of "20/20," you'll see a dramatic case in point. A young man who wanted to get back at his own mother for shattering his life, raising him in a bizarre religious sect that he says condoned sex with children. That story is coming up now.

ANNOUNCER

Tonight on '20/20," February 2nd, 2007.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

Well, hey everyone. This is Rick, and I am making this video.

SARAH MARTIN

I don't think he really thought he had a chance in life. That his life was already over. It had been ruined.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

I want there to be some record, my ideas, just who I was really. Just hope I don't (censored by network) up and do something stupid, blow my nose off instead of my (censored by network) head.

SARAH MARTIN

He would tell me, "I just wanna die. I'm just tired of this life. I'll never be free from this pain and this past."

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

The goal is to bring down the sick (censored by network), mom and Peter, my own mother... God damn. How can you do that to kids? How can do you that to kids and sleep at night?

DAVIDA KELLEY

Everything that was wrong, we were taught was right. Everything that was really evil and wicked and perverted was done in the name of Jesus. It really does (censored by network) your head up.

ELIZABETH VARGAS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Good evening, and welcome to the second of our two-hour special tonight on revenge. What you've just seen is real. A young man named Rick Rodriguez, tormented by his past, recording his final thoughts as he prepares to kill himself and his own mother. What would push him to take such extreme revenge?

JOHN STOSSEL (ABC NEWS)

(OC) His videotape tells only part of the story. Tonight scenes from a powerful British documentary called "Cult Killer" and our own reporting will fill in the details of his life. . A boy raised in a religious group that allowed sex with children. What you're about to see is at times graphic and disturbing, but it will help you understand what pushed Rick Rodriguez over the edge. Here's Jay Schadler.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Two months after his suicide, memories of Rick Rodriguez haunt this service being held in his honor. Like Rick, many here were raised in a fringe religious sect that practiced free love.

DON IRWIN

We're here to say good-bye to a friend that we had, somebody who need not have passed the way that he did.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Like Rick, some of the mourners say they were abused at the hands of a group originally called the Children of God. Its radical sexual philosophy was known as the Law of Love.

SARAH MARTIN (at memorial service)

I wanted to show Elixcia how many people loved Ricky and how many lives that he touched.

SARAH MARTIN

The Law of Love, they could do anything that they wanted really as long as they did it out of love, you know. So they used that a lot for a lot of things, you know? For the sharing, you know, for the swapping of couples. So basically that was the only law that they lived under. Because they certainly didn't abide by society's laws. You know, they definitely didn't abide by those laws. It just gave them an excuse to do whatever they want to anyone really or with anyone.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) The Law of Love was the creation of David Berg, founder of the sect, and it was promoted and encouraged through its publications.

DAVID BERG

I practice what I preach. And I preach sex, boys and girls. Hallelujah. When I say, (censored by network) you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Every one of you know, except maybe some of the little children. And our kids are so smart, they even know what that means. We don't think there's anything evil about it. We don't think there's anything wrong with that.

DON IRWIN

The circumstances of Ricky's passing are very tragic and uncharacteristic of Ricky as a person. Ricky would want this memorial, his memorial to be a celebration of life, not a celebration of death.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Don Irwin grew up in the sect and was a close friend of Rick's. His mother, Judy, had joined in the early days of the group.

JUDY

I actually joined in 1970 and, of course, I was 20, very vulnerable, didn't know what I was doing, you know. I had always went - since I was a kid wanted to do something for Jesus. So you kind of got drawn into the fact that it looked like they were doing something, because there were numbers coming at you. And actually, I joined - when I joined, there were 200 people. Within three years, there were 10,000 people.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) The Children of God were founded in 1968 in southern California by a charismatic Baptist minister called David Berg. At first, Berg preached a simple back-to-basics gospel, prophesizing the second coming of Jesus. But as his popularity grew, his sermon became more disturbing. By the early '80s, as film from the time shows, Berg's band of hippie followers had mobilized into a disciplined army of converts. Changing their name to The Family, they fanned out across the globe.

JUDY

I kind of got sucked in, you know, and I got sucked in before I knew what it - you know, I really thought I was joining a Christian organization. I thought it was what God wanted me to do. I had no idea that, you know, it eventually would turn into dark betrayal.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) To the outside world, The Family was a missionary organization spreading their word from Mexico City to Manila. But behind the closed doors of their communes, free love was their theology.

DANIEL ROSELLE

At the age of seven, I remember it was in Panama, and it was New Year's, and I slept on one of these trundle beds that pulls out from a bunk bed, and I remember rolling over and looking and there was the behind of a - of one of the sisters in the home. And she was having sex with my father less than a foot from me. I remember her name to this day. I remember getting up and going to the bathroom and looking in my mom's room, and my mom was having sex with the woman's husband. This wasn't an anomaly.

CLIP FROM "JAPAN EXPO VIDEO: THE FAMILY"

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE

(VO) Okay, girls, but don't cover up too quick.

DANIEL ROSELLE

It was part of our doctrine. It was part of our dogma. And it was not something that was restricted to adults. We were taught that as children.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Armed with camcorders, far-flung communes often recorded their exploits sending David Berg messages of love. Rick was the result of a grand sexual experiment. His mother, Karen Zerby, was David Berg's favorite consort. Early on, he devised a radical method of recruiting new converts. It was called flirty fishing.

DANIEL ROSELLE

So flirty fishing basically consisted of Family women more commonly and occasionally men going to places where they could meet people, bars and nightclubs and what have you, and making themselves available to these people, fairly readily available for sex. And then there was the expectation that they would lead these people to Jesus or pray with them to receive Jesus as their savior.

FEMALE MEMBER

(VO) Here we see Faithy as she witnesses... and he's asking her at this time, "Do you think I'll go to Heaven?" Very sweet, very sweet man who enjoyed their contact that night.

JUDY

I was never asked to share until the FFing thing came out and then it was kind of a pressurized thing. It was like you either do it or you're out.

DANIEL ROSELLE

David Berg in his writing refers to them as God's whores. My mother when I used that terminology, my mother took exception to that. And I reminded her that it wasn't I who used the words "God's whores" it was her founder.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Reportedly, Rick's mother, Karen Zerby was one of the first hookers for Jesus allegedly fishing 18 different men on a single trip to Tenerife. One of them was a local waiter, Rick's father. Because David Berg wanted an heir apparent he could mold in his own image, Berg adopted baby Rick celebrating the group's new messiah in publications and documenting his childhood in intimate family pictures.

SARAH MARTIN

He was almost like - I don't know. What would you compare that to? I suppose - he was just very famous, you know. Probably one of the most famous, sort of like next - to his dad, you know. It's like their family was like royalty. You know, and he was like a prince and, you know, soon to be king sort of person.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But the mantle of leadership came with a price. Berg would also use his son as an ideological plaything, pushing the sexual boundaries for a new generation of disciples.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

You know, we may not believe in God. I don't. At least certainly not the Christian (censored by network) God.

SARAH MARTIN

He talked about suicide a lot. And I would ask him, you know, why he felt like that. Why did he wanna die? And, you know, he said, you know, because I'm already dead.

ANNOUNCER

When "20/20" returns - the roots of Rick's despair. Former members describe a childhood robbed of innocence by David Berg's beliefs.

DANIEL ROSELLE

The women not only had sexual relationships with young boys, they were also facilitators. They also gave their children to the men.

ANNOUNCER

Next.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ANNOUNCER

'Revenge" continues on "20/20" with Jay Schadler.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

Okay. We're back. So anyway, duct tape. Can fix anything or (censored by network) stuff. And I want to fix some people with this. Anyway, okay. I'm sorry. I'm getting off track here. Where the (censored by network) was I? Suicide, yes, suicide.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) 24 hours after Rick recorded his suicide video, he left his Tucson apartment and hit the freeway. Driving west through the Arizona desert, he made his last phone call to his estranged wife, Elixcia.

ELIXCIA Garcia

He said he was afraid of dying. I told him that I believed in angels. And I told him that when he died that he would feel love that he never got to experience in this world. And he told me, keep telling me nice stories. Different parts of the conversation, he's like, 'Oh, I think I'm gonna pull it here and kill myself." And I'm just freaking out. I was like, 'What are you gonna do?" By this time he was really tired, I think he had been awake for, like, two days. And he just started mumbling words. He was, like, 'I have to go now." He goes, 'I'm so tired." He said, 'I'm so tired of thinking. You know, he just, a lot - he was just expressing thoughts, everything that was going through his mind. And then he, he's, like, 'I have to go now."

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick was reaching out to friends and family.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

I got in contact with my sister, who I consider my sister, because to me she is. She's not flesh and blood, but I'm talking about Davida. She calls me sometimes and we talk, and tells me the stuff she's going through. And it just breaks my heart, you know, because I wanna help her, but there's nothing I can do because it's all up here, you know? The damage has been done.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) David Berg frowned upon conventional families, and Rick was raised by a coterie of female acolytes along with a baby girl called Davida. The pair grew up almost as brother and sister. As The Family's patriarch continued to break sexual and religious taboos, Rick and Davida became his latest playthings.

DAVIDA KELLEY

Growing up as a kid, I remember everything revolved in our lives around religion and sex. They expected us to have some interaction between ourselves with the intent that we would marry, get married, and become the future heirs to the throne, so to speak, meaning that we would be the next future leaders, with - the next gurus, the next David Berg or the next Karen Zerby of our time.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Not only were Rick and Davida encouraged to have sexual interaction, but they also shared David Berg's bed.

DAVIDA KELLEY

I remember actually, I, I used to look forward to going and spending time with my - with him in the evenings, me and Rick, because it was the only time that he would actually let us watch cartoons. We were absolutely not allowed to watch any TV whatsoever. And it was the only time that we watched cartoons. He'd always let us watched 'Scooby-Doo." Well, we don't look forward to lover time but that was, that was part of the package. You get to watch 'Scooby-Doo" and eat chocolate and have, you know, loving interaction with Grandpa. There was never penetration, but up until about 12 years old. It was never penetration... It was just really all the other forms of molestation, touching and oral and mostly just that. Except it was different with Rick. He always had intercourse with the adult women because as a little boy, I suppose it's a little different, you know.

DANIEL ROSELLE

It was actually very common in The Family for the adult women to have sexual relations with young boys. The women not only had sexual relations with the young boys, they were also facilitators. They also gave their children to the men. It wasn't just the case of sort of, you know, sticking up for your mate or, for your partner, the woman defending the man and being in denial because of it. No, they were active enablers and active participants in our abuse.

GRAPHICS: THE STORY OF DAVIDITO

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick and Davida even starred in their own bedtime story, printed by The Family as an example for all their children to follow. Chapters dealt with potty training, discipline, and sex.

DAVIDA KELLEY

The book was just written by my mother because my mother was the one that raised, like I said, had raised Rick and myself, so she had just written these chronicles explaining on a day-to-day basis on how we interacted and what she was teaching us and what we were learning, and that included sexual encounters that she had had with him and how she used to masturbate him to sleep and how she'd make sure that – he would have his love up time before bedtime. It was just so – it was really - you have to read the book. It's really - so that's what the 'Davidito" book was. It was just - a book written about our lives and how we were raised and how other people should imitate the way we were raised to try to do the best to raise their children accordingly.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) By the early '80s, David Berg was on the run from Interpol on suspicion of pimping, moving with Rick and Davida from one secret compound to the next. Now he commanded his female acolytes to send him strip videos. Two young English girls, Celeste and Kristina, were among those he ordered to perform before his cameras.

CELESTE JONES

That's to me disturbing because it - this is just, was just the start of much more.

KRISTINA JONES

And we were told we're dancing for God as well as Berg, didn't we? And in fact, we...

CELESTE JONES

Yeah. Glorify God in the dance. Yeah, it's just, it's just sad. It's just...

KRISTINA JONES

David Berg wrote a letter called 'Glorify God in the Dance" where he gave us specific instructions about what he wanted to see on these dance videos. So it came right from David Berg. It was his idea. And it was for him.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Celeste says her strip video was filmed at family commune in Greece and directed by Berg's lieutenant Paul Peloquin, who she says enthusiastically followed the examples set by Berg.

CELESTE JONES

I hold Paul Peloquin responsible because he ran the communes. His word was go. And he was the one that did those dance videos when I was in Greece. I remember him yelling and being quite physically violent with me on many occasions throughout my childhood. I remember particular sexual abuse when I was 9 years old. It was on the floor in the studio, and I had to perform - masturbate him, and he masturbated me, and then he masturbated himself in front of me. I remember that particularly. But I don't, I don't remember every incidence because, I mean, it happened so often.

CLIP FROM "MUSIC WITH MEANING: THE FAMILY"

PAUL PELOQUIN

And Joan came to me and she said, "well, since Dad suggested that I make love to him in the latest comment tape, do you think I should masturbate?" And, said, I said "of course. That sounds beautiful."

CELESTE JONES

He was the one that would use David Berg's writings to support his position and also help to set up the schedules that I would be put on for sexually servicing all the men in the home.

DON IRWIN

They never report to anyone else except for Berg. What happened in that location is they began to institute and institutionalize the pedophilia that Berg was already practicing in his personal household. And sadly, what happened with that inner circle, as far as some of the guys were, is it essentially became a pedophile ring. They viciously abused Amy, as well as Celeste in a very systematic way over a very, very long period of time. Now, the pernicious thing about all of this is that the children were inculturated to believe that this was normal.

PAUL PELOQUIN

It was really a beautiful experience. It really...

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Despite the allegations against Paul Peloquin, he has never been charged with any child abuse.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

What about these, you know, (censored by network) pervert? You know, aren't they the real terrorists, terrorizing little kids, and driving them to suicide? Isn't that like murdering them basically? (Censored by network) their minds so much that they can't go on? They really can't go on. Isn't that like killing them?

ANNOUNCER

When "20/20" returns, The Family comes forward to defend its past, captured in a how-to guidebook.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) You've got pictures of kids in sexually compromised positions.

ANNOUNCER

Next.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ANNOUNCER

'Revenge" continues on '20/20." Here's Elizabeth Vargas.

ELIZABETH VARGAS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Former members of the fringe group then called The Children of God say that part of their religious upbringing involved the worst kind of child abuse, incest and pedophilia that would haunt Rick Rodriguez until the end of his life.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

Goddamn. I can only imagine what my sister goes through. She has nightmares about, you know, being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to go have sex with Berg. Goddamn.

DAVIDA KELLEY

It was very strange because during a lot of these sexual interactions, David Berg would be getting prophecies, and he'd lift his hands in the air and get a prophecy and say that was about, you know, saying that that was amazing sex that you just had with the ghost gypsy. The gypsy ghost would say 'Thanks." That was, it was.. he would get whole prophecies... it was really disturbing.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) By age 12, Rick was reportedly sequestered at The Family's secret headquarters where his abuse may have reached new extremes. In the mind of his father, incest was virtuous. And according to Davida, Berg encouraged Rick's mother, Karen Zerby to join in their sexual games.

DAVIDA KELLEY

I specifically remember a couple of accounts where we were all in the same bed. I was required to be having sexual interaction with the guru at the time, David Berg, and I would be on his right side masturbating him while Rick would be having full sexual intercourse with his mother on the same – on other side of the bed, but it would be like a big happy family time in bed between the four of us.

DANIEL ROSELLE

There are a lot of things that I've sort of come to terms with and I understand that - the issues of control in The Family. But what I haven't come to understand yet is how such a large group of people of diverse backgrounds, of diverse ethnicities, of income levels, can so readily turn to wholesale pedophilia. Not everybody engaged in it, but if you were in The Family, you knew about it.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) In the case of Ricky Rodriguez and Davida Kelley, evidence that they grew up in a sexually charged atmosphere is hard to refute and even harder to look at in photos from the family's own publications. Claire Borowik is the spokeswoman for The Family International. When we spoke with her in 2005, she said she was deeply saddened by what has happened but doesn't believe her organization is responsible and denies Rick was a victim of sexual abuse.

CLAIRE BOROWIK

It wasn't really an issue of sex. There was a – liberal, liberality that existed in our homes. That degree of liberality existed in some homes. Not in most homes.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Well, how about, how about David Berg's own home? How about, for example, in the book of 'Davidito," there's a picture of Ricky in front of a 'Playboy" playmate. On the next page is a picture of Ricky at the breast of one of your elders.

CLAIRE BOROWIK

Mm-hmm. Well, you're giving a sexual context to that. He's 2 years old. But...

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) You wouldn't give a sexual context to, to Ricky standing in front of a 'Playboy" playmate?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

Yes, I understand.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Why are the faces blanked out?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

Well, because back then Father David had received some threats.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) You don't think that they were scratched out to protect their identities?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

No, no.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) You don't? I mean I don't mean to be obtuse, but it seems to me as if one of the reasons that you'd cover it up is because you don't, you've got pictures of kids in sexually compromised positions. You don't want their identities.

CLAIRE BOROWIK

I can understand you'd look at it that way. But I'd have to show you our other books so you can see that in our normal publications it had absolutely nothing sexual in it.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But other ex-members that we've met before like Celeste Jones and Don Irwin still insist that an intense atmosphere of sexuality pervaded the groups they lived in.

CELESTE JONES

I was also the subject of sexual abuse, adults teaching me mainly to fondle them and also...

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) At what age?

CELESTE JONES

5, 5 and 6 years old.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) 5 and 6 years old?

CELESTE JONES

Yeah.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Scandalized by all these accusations and the subject of a number of police raids worldwide, the group renounced adult child sex in 1986. Just this week, it issued a statement to "20/20" that included official apologies to several unnamed former and current members and a letter from Rick's biological sister stating that he had, quote, 'become severely disturbed. When I knew him he never felt any of the things he stated in his video." In our interview with Claire Borowik, she also stressed that no court has ever convicted anyone in The Family of sexual abuse.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) The Family turned over a new leaf in 1986, right?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

That's right. Now we did not have any policies in place that would protect our minors. It became very clear in 1986 that that was very necessary and important.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But more and more, those who spent their childhoods in the family have spoken out and remember a far different reality including this former sect member known as Francisco. The Family maintains even today that in 1986 the line was drawn. After that, no more sexual contact between adults and children. Is that true or is that false?

FRANCISCO

Nobody came to us and told us this was changing. We didn't see a change.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Despite that claim, other members of The Family, including these young people who we met two years ago, insist they've never experienced any abuse in the group, which they say engaged in fundraising and charitable activities around the world.

ANNA

If it was categorical, if it was widespread, how come I never suffered abuse? How come I who have over 100 personal friends in The Family International all over the world, how come none of them ever told me they witnessed abuse or experienced abuse?

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) The Family has as denied that Karen Zerby, Rick's mother, ever had sex with him and say he himself never made this allegation to them. In 1994, David Berg died and Karen Zerby became the new leader of the sect, living a life mostly in hiding ever since. Whatever actually happened in David Berg's bedroom had a profound effect on Rick and his sister. In recent years, Davida has struggled with drug abuse and today earns her living as an exotic dancer. As for Rick...

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

Jesus Christ, you know, anger does not begin, does not begin to describe how I feel about these people and what they've done. You know, I mean, rage. I think I'm just really (censored by network) in the head. I tried so many things, trying to somehow fit in, somehow to find, you know, a normal life.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) But was normal ever an option for this young man, now on a violent collision course with his past, as he hunts for his mother, The Family's current leader, Karen Zerby?

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

And I wanna keep going until somebody gets her, I get her, justice will be done, believe me. It's only a matter of time.

ANNOUNCER

When "20/20" returns, the destructive path of revenge.

BEN JIMENZ (Detective, Tucson Homicide Unit)

A female victim was laying on the carpet. It appeared that her throat had been slashed.

ANNOUNCER

Next.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ANNOUNCER

The legacy of Rick Rodriguez, describing a childhood of sexual abuse that he says drove him to violence.

ROSEMARY KANSPEDOS

I had known that it was coming. It wasn't a matter of maybe it will come. It was a matter of when is it going to happen?

ANNOUNCER

When '20/20" continues after this from our ABC stations.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ANNOUNCER

'Revenge" continues on '20/20." Here's John Stossel.

JOHN STOSSEL (ABC NEWS)

(OC) We continue now with the story of Rick Rodriguez. Seven years ago, he and his girlfriend were determined to break with The Family and start a new life. They moved to the Northwest. They got married. Rick got a new job, and things seemed to be looking up. But three years into his new life, his past closed in.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) At Rick and Elixcia's home in Tacoma, Washington, former members of The Family began contacting them urging Rick to take a stand against their abusers. Raised to be a leader, it was a role he found difficult to refuse.

ELIXCIA Garcia

People would ask him, "Why aren't you doing something about it? If you know the truth, you more than anybody else will be believed because of where you were." They're, like, "You owe it to us." You know? And here he is, he's got a good job. He's got a happy life. In his heart, he didn't think it was fair for him to have been given that second chance when there were kids out there that were hurting.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick's thoughts turned to revenge against his mother, Karen Zerby, and he began forming a plan. In the summer of 2004, now aged 29, he left Elixcia in Tacoma and drove south to Arizona.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

My mom's gonna pay for that. She's gonna pay dearly. One way or another. If I don't get to her, man, if I don't get to her and life goes on, I'm gonna keep hunting her in the next life, let me tell you.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) As official leader of The Family, Karen Zerby's whereabouts were a closely guarded secret. Even Rick, who had severed all ties with the group, had lost track of his mother. So in seeking his revenge for all those years of alleged sexual abuse, his first step was to find her.

SARAH MARTIN

I knew that he had a plan to find his mother. I knew that that's all he was - really wanted to do. He really wanted to confront her face to face and ask her, you know, and get some answers.

ELIXCIA Garcia

He was searching for his meaning in life. He really was. And I think he finally came up with a conclusion that his, his reason for living was to make right his mother's wrongs.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) In the summer of 2004, word reached Rick that his mother had recently visited his grandparents in a Tucson retirement home. By September, he had moved to the city. Like an urban hunter, he waited for his mother to reappear. In the meantime, he made contact with his aunt, Zerby's sister, who lives in the city and shuns the cult.

ROSEMARY KANSPEDOS

He was my nephew. He needed help. He was the one that was going to be helped. And any anger he had, he had a right to it. His mother didn't take care of him. He didn't have a mother. I had known that it was coming. It wasn't a matter of "maybe it'll come." It was a matter of "when is it going to happen?"

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick rented a room in a rough part of town and found a job as an electrician. He practiced martial arts at a local gym and joined a gun club. And he waited for his mother. Four months after arriving in Tucson, Rick set up his new video camera and pressed record.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

I'm not trained in torture methods, which is why I'm gonna have to make do. I got my drill here. The reason why it's got this (censored by network) padding on it is just to try to silence it a bit because I'm in an apartment. I got a soldering iron, heat, rather crude implements. I think it'll work wonders, especially if it's used in the right way. But I'm not trained. I don't know how to (censored by network) do. I don't even want to (censored by network) do this. Goddamn it.

BEN JIMENZ

The Blythe, California Police Department contacted us on the morning of January 9th. We walked in. The apartment was relatively clean and well kept and a female victim was laying, elderly female, she was laying on the carpet. It appeared that her throat had been slashed. There were some defensive wounds to her arms, some cuts on her arms as well.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) True to his threats, Rick had committed murder, but the victim was not his mother. It was her close confidante, Angela Smith. Smith had helped raise Rick. And in the story of 'Davidito," she reportedly appears under the pseudonym of Sue. Rick may have arranged a meeting with her early on the evening of January 8th, planning to force her to reveal his mother's whereabouts. While there were no signs of torture here, the savagery of the murder testifies to Rick's desperation.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

This need that I have, this need, it's not a want, it's a (censored by network) need, and I wish it wasn't, but it is, it's a need for revenge. It's a need for justice, because I can't go on like this.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) It will never be known if Rick managed to learn where his mother was hiding. Perhaps, he was still hunting for her as he left the murder scene and headed into the Arizona desert. What is known is that his final act of violence was against himself. Police say some time after midnight, he drove into this empty lot...

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

I'm sort of quitting right now, but in a way, I'm not because I'm not doing it the way I wanna do it. I didn't just turn tail and run and let those (censored by network) win.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) and fired a single round ending his life.

RICKY RODRIGUEZ

I would have a peaceful happy life. I tried. I did. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Gave it what I could, you know? I did.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick Rodriguez is dead. His mother, Karen Zerby, is still alive. But where is she?

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ANNOUNCER

'Revenge" continues on "20/20." Once again, Jay Schadler.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Those who knew him best say Rick Rodriguez was seeking revenge against his mother, Karen Zerby, when he finally committed suicide in the Arizona Desert. He never found her. And former members of the sect say the FBI had been investigating her whereabouts as well. We took the mystery to Claire Borowik, current spokeswoman for The Family International. We spoke with her in 2005.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Why do you think at this crucial moment in the history of The Family and in this crucial moment for Ricky and all of these other second-generation kids, your spiritual leader, Karen Zerby, is nowhere to be found? Don't you think it's stark?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

We don't look at it as nowhere to be found. She's very present in her writings.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Do you know where she is?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

Do I know where? No. Not necessarily.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) You don't?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

No.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(OC) Claire, the Pope is a spiritual leader. We know where he is. Karen is a spiritual leader, and we don't know where she is. And her son just committed suicide and murder.

CLAIRE BOROWIK

And I'm aware of that.

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) So why don't we know where she is?

CLAIRE BOROWIK

That's her policy. That's all I can tell you.

DON IRWIN

We want to release doves for Ricky. And I'm also going to read off the names of people that we've heard of, people who passed away who were not remembered. That - this first dove is for Ricky. Abe, Amos…

JAY SCHADLER (ABC NEWS)

(VO) Rick Rodriguez is not the only second-generation member of The Family to commit suicide or fatally overdose on drugs. Exact numbers are not known. But some here say as many as 30 have died in the past 10 years. But on this day, this memorial service is for just one, Rick.

AMY

He wanted to understand, he wanted to care, and he wanted to do something about the pain that I had suffered and others had suffered, like himself.

DAVIDA KELLEY

Well, Rick and I grew up together. We were born in the same country, same hospital. My mother raised us both. And I, I just wanted to say that if it wasn't for my family and friends who had been there for me, I can't say that I wouldn't have killed myself a long time ago.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

ELIZABETH VARGAS (ABC NEWS)

(OC) That's our program for tonight. 'Nightline" is coming up after your local news. I'm Elizabeth Vargas.

JOHN STOSSEL (ABC NEWS)

(OC) And I'm John Stossel. For all of us at '20/20," we're in touch, so you'll be in touch. Good night.


CREDITS

  • Executive Producer: David Sloan
  • Directed by George Paul and Ann Benjamin Ruff
  • Senior Broadcast Producer: Carla De Landri
  • Senior Editorial Producer: Terri Lichstein
  • Senior Producers - Special Projects: Martin Clancy and Martin Phillips
  • Senior Producer - Story Development: Lisa Soloway
  • Editorial Producer/Writer: Patricia Dauer
  • Senior Producer: Dan Woo
  • Contributing Producer: Joan LeFosse
  • Technical Director: Richard Drummond
  • Art Director: Katherine Henry
  • Associate Directors: Dennis Osik, Shanna Forlano, Michelle Leon and Craig Bigelow
  • Stage Manager: Tom Horin
  • Director of Production: Tony Mandile
  • Senior Production Manager: Ron Calhoun
  • Senior Post Production Manager: Patrick McNeive
  • Post Production Managers: Jessica Stark and Michael Rose
  • Show Open Producer: Scott A. Levy
  • Post Production Editors: Mitch Kress, Richard T. Rutter and Neil M. Sass
  • Writers: Jim Avila, Juju Chang, Chris Connelly, Jay Schadler, Lynn Sherr, Joy Garcia-Levy, Jeffrey L. Diamond, Howie Masters, Michael N. Pressman, Lynn Redmond and Teri Whitcraft
  • Editors: Alan J. Esner and Jack Pyle
  • Field Producer: Jim DuBreuil
  • Associate Producers: Keturah Gray, Sara Holmberg, Jessica Hornig and Myrna A. Toledo
  • Senior Production Associate: Iman Hobbs
  • Production Associate: Helaine S. Tabacoff
  • Production Support: Lillian Ruiz
  • Camera: Bruce Anderson, Mark Berg, Ralph Binder, Daniel Briol, Herb Forsberg, Ken Fuhr, Bobby Goldsborough, Stu Gordon, Jim Kent, John Landi, Bill McMillan, Bob Schmitt, Charlie Scott and Bob Tews
  • Sound: Paul Baldwin, Mustapha Cheriet, Tony D'Innunzio, Jeffrey Edrich, Kip Gynn, Bob Lotz, Gordon Marcotte, Gary Raluse, Steve Roseboom, Bill Ruth, Tom Skarda, Fred Soffa and Anthony Sozio
  • Video Courtesy of: ETS, WAG TV, TVF International, KGUN-TV Tuscon, WXYZ-TV Detroit, KOMO-TV Seattle, WEWS-TV Clevelan, KABC-TV Los Angeles, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, WGCB-TV Springfield, MA, The Love Prophet/DLI Productions and Ina-L'Institut National De L'Audiovisuel
  • Clip/Extract of "Beautiful Minds-A Voyage Into The Brain" licensed by Electricsky.com on behalf of colourField, Tell-A-Vision (Germany)
  • Photographs Courtesy of: Getty Images, Globe Photos, Associated Press, The Family International, The Kanspedos Family
  • Special Thanks: KGUN-TV Tucson and WEWS Cleveland