The Sentinel: Sorry story of a killer doomed from childhood

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Sorry story of a killer doomed from childhood

The Sentinel/2006-08-21

On January 7, 2005, Rick Rodriguez slit the throat of his former nanny and then, on a lonely desert highway, killed himself.

Hours earlier he'd videoed his suicide note, the rambling 60-minute tape giving a remarkable insight into a deeply damaged life. Broadcast for the first time on television, it also lifts the lid on one of the most notorious religious cults to emerge from 1960s American counter-culture.

Aged 29, Rick was heir apparent to one of the most outrageous sects in America. Founded by Rick's adoptive father David Berg, The Family, formerly The Children Of God, promoted a bizarre blend of messianic Christianity and free love.

However, the truth was a sorry tale of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Raised to be crown prince of the cult, Rick was a guinea pig in his father's quest to break almost every religious and societal taboo. But five years ago the leader-in-waiting broke with the cult, and with other ex-members became a vocal opponent.

Increasingly desperate and angry about his childhood, Rick's thoughts turned to revenge. In his video he loads bullets into his gun while vowing terrible violence on those who abused him, in particular his mother who, after Berg's death, took control of the sect.

Despite the savagery of his end, his friends (including two British members of the cult), family and wife say Rick was no psycho but a gentle and caring person driven to violence by his dark past.

In Cutting Edge, those closest to him recount the story of a man seemingly doomed from childhood.