Investigation regarding the bibliography of the Children of God: The existence of clandestine jails

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In 1992, Argentine lawyer Hector Walter Navarro was appointed as an expert by Judge Liliana Puccio in Rosario, Argentina to report on literature, documents and other evidence obtained during an investigation of The Family in that city. At their request, he also later submitted written reports to Judge Julio Manuel Campora in Mercedes and Robert Jose Marquevich in San Isidro. The Spanish original of this translated report can be found at Investigación sobre la bibliografía de Los Niños de Dios: Existencia de correcccionales clandestinos.

Note: This is a preliminary non-professional translation from the source language to English. If and when an improved and/or professional translation of this document becomes available, it will be added here. This translation is intended to give the reader a general understanding of the document's contents. It should not be relied upon or quoted as a definitive, official or professional translation. In case of any concern about its accuracy, please refer to the original and/or consult a professional translator. Corrections and suggestions for its improvement are welcome. Please see: Contributing Information

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Investigation regarding the bibliography of the Children of God

This part of the expert report explores the existence of clandestine jails in the sect. One of them operated in Macao. a Portuguese colony on the Chinese coast. The selection of this particular location reveals their intent to act with impunity. It should be noted that the previous expert report prepared by Dr. Navarro for the magistrate in Rosario revealed to the whole world for the first time the existence of this virtual Gulag Archipelago [1] in which political terror was replaced by religious terror.

The existence of clandestine jails

by Hector Walter Navarro/1993

One of the most dangerous characteristics of the sect is that it subjects minors to clandestine incarceration. The first correctional facility of the sect opened in Macao, the Portuguese colony on the Chinese coast. In the literature seized in the city of Rosario [2] (Revista Juvenil nº 1),[3] it is called a juvenile correctional facility (see page 17) that was directed by Michael and Crystal, whose complete names are Michael and Crystal Gambrill [4] which I was informed of by Merry Berg ("Mene") while interviewing her in Simi Valley, California (USA). She also told me that the name in English of the clandestine jail was "Teen Detention Home." On page 18 there is a photocopy of a page on which the same "Mene" has written the names of the other children incarcerated with her.

It should be noted that among the detained youth was "James"[5] whom I already referred to in the expert report prepared for the Minor's Judge of Mercedes. This youth, according to literature seized from the sect, "had a very bitter and negative attitude towards sexuality, as well as in his relations with others and always operated in rather self-righteous and pharasaical way. He seemed to be some of type of intellectual youth." It is notable that Mene was also accused of being self-righteous and that being an intellectual was considered negative and that (in a completely corrupt group) one was criticized for having a negative attitude towards sexuality. Only 13 years old at the time this youth confided, his doubts regarding the sexual abuses he had suffered in an "Open Heart Report" (as the mandatory weekly confessions were called). The father of this youth is Issac Numbers, worldwide accountant for the cult. Due to the importance the parents of the children and teens detained in the Macao secret facility have in the cult; I believe that this facility was specifically for the children of leaders. This can be evidenced because, in the cult, the children who suffer the worst abuses are those closest to the "Royal Family," constituted by David Berg and his closest acolytes.

Other youths detained in Macao have been: Jonathan Gilliagin[6], son of Apollos (Michael Gillagin) and Lois (Patrice Gillagin). Apollos is the principal editor in the sect today.[7] Previous editors were Edward Priebe (Hart) and Samson Warner who have left the sect in the past few years and are now its active enemies. Another youth detainee was Ben or Benjamin, son of Enoch Cameron, who worked as the camera operator for "Music with Meaning" which produces the sect's videos and cassettes. Also detained were two children named "Lilly" and "Rose," daughters of Lydia (now Serena) and Caleb. The importance of these latter two is apparent in that, to my understanding, the sect began on January 15, 1968 which was the same day that David Berg committed his first crime as sect leader and kidnapped "Lydia," fleeing with her while she was a minor and separating her from her parents who tried to rescue her. To make the kidnapping definitive, Berg quickly married "Lydia" to "Caleb." The child soon born to this couple, a few years later, fled the group, by which "Lydia" went through a similar experience to the one her parents had when she fled with the sect, but in reverse. [8]

In Revista Juvenil no. 5 (page 19) there is a letter from "Mene" to her grandfather, Maria and her stepfather, referred to in the letter as "adoptive father" and in which she says: "The Letter, 'It's Up To You" (CM 2524) and the articles about me recently arrived and uncle Michael and aunt Crystal read them to all of us at our juvenile correctional facility," which reaffirms the existence of these detention centres at the margin of the law.

"Mene" personally described to me the atrocious circumstances of her incarceration in Macao: She was held there for three and a half years, from the ages of 13 to 17, in a cell with a double door and bars. In the first two months, they only opened the door to give her food. In the first six months, they wouldn't let her out, not even for a minute, onto the courtyard of the jail. She was subject to the law of silence and she was punished if she spoke with any person including other incarcerated youths or her jailers. One must keep in mind that this very cruel treatment was given to a child. In the sect they always say the accusations of child abuse which are made against them are lies. Nevertheless, in the sect's own literature, albeit in a very self-justifying version, the cruelty with which she was treated is revealed. This is how Crystal, the director of the jail, told the story:

"Her liberty is very restricted... She is forbidden to be with children... If she ever talks with someone, whether an adult or a child, it is only for brief moments... She is not completely lucid and is often disoriented... How different from the bright and intelligent girl she once was! She is not very alert, she is very slow and her head is not working right... In a way it seems she is suffering the neurosis of war...she pulls out her hair to the point that she already has a small bald spot on her head! She scratches her lip in a strange way, like a nervous tic, and sometimes she scratches herself uncontrollably like monkeys do... Mene has suffered irreparable harm and it's possible she will never be a normal person again... in the System they would consider her demented and soon they would lock her up in a mental hospital!" (pages 20 and 21). [9]

To the previous transcript should be added the exorcismal beatings her grandfather gave her which is referred to in detail in the expert report prepared for the judge in Rosario as well as the punishment of being tied to the bed with wire. In that report I expressed my grave concern with respect to the future and final state of this child. I must say at this point that it brought me great joy to know her and have personally verified that despite the predictions of definitive insanity made by aunt Crystal, Merry Berg is now a completely normal young person who refers to the nightmare she lived in the sect as something she has left completely in the past; she is studying at University and has shown me the excellent grades she has received from her professors. When she saw the Mo Letters I had with me, she commented that upon seeing them she felt a great satisfaction that she no longer had the obligation of reading them. Nevertheless, at my urging, she told me the circumstances and the reasons why she was subjected to the cruel treatment previously referred to.

She told me that at 9 years of age she was violated by "all" the men belonging to "Music with Meaning." When I asked her if these men were Simon Black, Simon Peter and Jeremy Spencer, she emphatically answered that it was "all" of them. It was during this time that at this centre which produced music videos and cassettes, Mene was filmed dancing stark naked, the tape of which I already delivered to your Excellency. She also told me that she was violated by her grandfather at the age of eleven and a half and by her "adoptive father" at the age of twelve and a half. Although she did not know at the time that this conduct was immoral or criminal, she told me that she felt "strange" when she was obliged to practice intercourse with her grandfather or adoptive father. She came to write these doubts in the mandatory "Open Heart Report" thus beginning her odyssey of suffering and maltreatment. At the same time she began to have doubts regarding the doctrines of the sect, upon seeing the prophecies of her grandfather, like the one linked to Halley's comet, were not fulfilled or seeing him completely drunk.

"Mene" is so normal at this moment that she has no interest in talking about her grandfather and much less fighting against the sect as the CHILDREN OF GOD fear. Her current interests are attending University, getting good grades and going out with her friends. She is in all respects an intelligent and serene young lady and it is amazing to see how she has recovered from the terrible years she lived in the sect. However, I must report that other youths have not been able to recover so well. For example, another of David Berg's granddaughters, Joy Anne Treadwell, has given me the impression that she will always be marked by the terrible things that she endured: She was violated by her grandfather at 5 years of age and later by her stepfather. At age 13, her mother Deborah took her to prostitute herself in the cabarets of Venezuela. Her greatest reproach against her mother is for not having protected her when was violated at a young age. When I asked "Deborah Davis" about these circumstances she calmly replied that she hadn't done anything because the norm in the sect at the time was to permit such conduct.

We cannot but feel compassion for these children for the atrocious situations they were in. It is understood that many of them are still suffering the consequences of the abuse. There can be no other explanation for the death a few days ago of River Phoenix from drug abuse, as the press has reported he was the child of a couple that were members of the cult.

The great problem in the cult now is that the children who were abused are reaching an age in which they can criticize and rebel against their oppressors. The cult tries to justify all the acts of abuse that were committed. Thus in Good News no. 430 from January 1990, they say:

"in the past, before our hypocritical enemies started slinging all their child abuse accusations at us, we enjoyed certain God given liberties and that natural attraction occasionally did lead to some involvement and affection shown between some of our adult men and teen girls and the same thing occasionally took place between some teen boys and adult women.

9. So if you happen to be a teen who happened to have any kind of involvement or experience along these lines, we wanted to encourage you that you do not need to feel condemned, guilty, ashamed or confused. When you read in the Letters how any and all such activities are now strictly forbidden and that anyone who engages in them will be excommunicated, you don't need to go to extremes and start getting worried about your health and your past. You'd be much better off if you just trust the Lord and believe that your past is all in His hands and leave it there! Forget the things which are behind, and stretch forward to the things which are before! (Phillipians 3:13)

10. We still believe what the Bible says, that "to the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:15), that "the only law of God is Love" and that anything done in love is perfectly lawful in the eyes of God. What is happening now is that in these times not everything is lawful, expedient, useful or edifying (First Corinithians 6:12). Now that the System is making such a big stink and getting so freaked out and infuriated about anything they even suspect may be child sex abuse, we have been forced to prohibit any relations of that type! That's not to say that any intimacies or loving relationships that may have taken place in the past were necessarily all wrong, wicked, sinful or of the devil! That is simply not the case!

11. "But you don't know my story," some teens may say. "It wasn't very intimate or loving - I feel like I was "abused" or at least "used" by so-an-so!" Well, if you were actually mistreated or hurt in any way, we're certainly very sorry about that and we're sure that whoever was involved with you is sorry as well...

13. If this was the case with you, you need to realise that you don't have to look back on that experience as a horrible mistake of some kind or that the person you were with was some sort of dirty old man or monster!" -(pages 22 and 23)


Astonishingly, there is the continual invocation that God is the one who allowed the children to be abused in the past and that it was ok and if it was suspended it was only the fault of the System, that is to say the world outside the sect. The final reference to the "dirty old man" or "monster" is clearly an attempt by David Berg to defend himself. It is worth the effort to transcribe the violation he committed upon a 5-year-old girl named "Davida" on the occasion of celebrating his 62nd birthday:

Letter: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! HAPPY BIRTHDAY FAMILY! DFO 1338:119 "I'M WARMING MY HANDS ON A COUPLE OF NICE BOSOMS, RIGHT? Bosoms sounds so nice & delicious & lucious & squeezt & nice & lovely! (Davida: Do you want to make some?) Right now? Right here? In front of the camera? (Davida: Yes!) Some love? Oh my! This girl is gettin' there fast! Well, where is she sitting? (Davida: I can't tell. On a penie!) Oh, my goodness. Shhh! You're not supposed to use those words on camera, it's against the censorship! She's sitting on Grandpa! (Davida: I thought they were fucking, actually fucking an angel!) We're not supposed to use that word on the camera, but you heard it--but you didn't hear it--anyhow, it's an angel!" (page 24). [10]

Translator's Notes

  1. According to the "Britannica Guide to the Nobel Prizes," "the Gulag Archipelago is a history and memoir of life in the Soviet Union's prison camp system by Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, first published in Paris as Arkhipelag GULag in three volumes (1973-75). Gulag is a Russian acronym for the Soviet government agency that supervised the vast network of forced-labour camps. Solzhenitsyn used the word archipelago as a metaphor for the camps, which were scattered through the sea of civil society like a chain of islands extending 'from the Bering Strait almost to the Bosporus.'"
  2. In the early 1990s, Family homes in Rosario, Argentina were investigated by local authorities. A number of Family members were eventually sentenced to 30 days in jail and a fine. The sentence was upheld by appeals courts. While xFamily.org does not yet have an article detailing the facts of this case, Puccio's February 23, 1993 sentencing order and opinion (in Spanish) is available. (PDF Icon 30 pages, 4MB)
  3. The original name in English of "Revista Juvenil" (literally translated as "Juvenile Magazine") is not known to the translator although it may refer to the Family publication series "Teen Special Magazine." It should be noted that the Judgment of Lord Justice Ward had the following information: "in a Teen Special published in November 1992, The Family describes the Special Teen programme in Macau."
  4. Crystal's current legal name is Kathy Farrell and she was formerly married to Michael Gambrill. Although there is evidence indicating that Crystal did use the surname Gambrill, xFamily.org has not yet been able to determine if Crystal was ever her legal first name.
  5. One Family publication with more information on "Teen James" is PDF IconFSM 104 (FN 213) DO July, 1988 CONTEND FOR OUR TEENS!--THE STORY OF TEEN JAMES!--By Isaac Numbers & Sara (19 pages, 4.8MB)
  6. Note: Surname correctly spelt "Gilligan".
  7. Note: Apollos left the cult in around 1998/99.
  8. Family publications with information regarding the "Lydia" described in Navarro's report include ML 1647 God's Curses (GN Book 16), ML 1723 1942--A Year of Deliverance (GN Book 18) and ML 1728 1967: The Family Begins (GN Book 20).
  9. Whenever possible, xFamily.org translators avoid translating a translation and when a document is quoted, use text from the original version in the source language. However, in this case. the translator has not yet examined or identified the English original of the quoted Family publication and thus the translation of the quoted text is based partially on an actual translation of the text from Spanish to English and excerpts from the October 1995 Judgment of Lord Justice Ward. When and if the original English version of the quoted publication becomes available to us, it will be used to improve the translation. In the meantime, readers should be aware that this translation likely differs from the original.
  10. *PDF IconHappy Birthday Dad! Happy Birthday Family!DFO 1338, 1981-02-18 (13 pages, 3.4MB)