Cult Killer: The Rick Rodriguez Story
Channel 4 (U.K.)/2006-08-21
Text on screen: Cutting Edge
Rick Rodriguez: Well hey everyone, this is Rick and I am making this video.
Text on screen: January 7th, 2005
Text on screen: this is rick's suicide note
Rick: I want there to be some record, my ideas, just who I was really
Text on screen: rick was born into a religious cult
Rick: Hope I don't fuck up and do something stupid and blow my nose off instead of my fucking head.
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.
Elixcia Garcia: He would tell me, "I just want to die. I'm just tired of this life. I'll never be free from this pain and this past.
Text on screen: rick was planning suicide and murder
Rick: The goal... is to bring down those sick fuckers, Mom and Peter. My own mother, what an evil little...
Text on screen: rick's mother leads the cult
Rick: God damn... How can do that to kids? How can you do that to kids and sleep at night? I don't fucking know, anyway...
Text on screen: within 48 hours two people were dead
Davida Kelley: You know everything was backwards the way we were growing up. Absolutely everything. 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 fuck your head up.
Text on screen: Cult Killer the rick rodriguez story
Narrator: Two months after Rick Rodriguez recorded his video, friends are holding his memorial.
Text on screen: March 2005, San Diego
Narrator: Like Rick, many of them were raised in a bizzare Christian sect who practiced free love.
Don Irwin: We're here to say goodbye to a friend that we had, somebody who need not have passed the way that he did.
Narrator: Like Rick, many of the mourners say they were abused in the cult. Originally called the Children of God, it followed a radical religious and sexual philosophy they named the Law of Love.
Sarah: To show... Elixicia... how many people loved Ricky and how many lives that he touched. [at memorial service]
Sarah: The Law of Love. They could do anything that they wanted really.
Text on screen: Sarah Martin left The Family, 1991
Sarah: They could do anything that wanted really as they did it out of love. So they used that a lot for a lot of things. For the sharing, 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. They definitely didn't abide by those laws. It just gave them an excuse to do whatever they want to anyone or with anyone.
Narrator: The Law of Love was the creation of David Berg, founder of the cult and promoted and encouraged through its publications.
Voice of David Berg: I practice what I preach, and I preach sex, boys and girls, Hallelujah! I say 'fuck' you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Every one of you know except maybe for some of the children but 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 it.
Don: 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...
Narrator: Don Irwin grew up in the cult and was a close friend of Rick's. His mother Judy joined in the early days of the sect.
Judy: I actually joined in 1970 and of course, I was 20, very vulnerable, didn't know what I was doing. I had always wanted, 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, withing three years there were ten thousand people.
Narrator: The Children of God were founded in 1968 in Southern California by a charismatic Baptist minister called David Berg.
Text on screen: Mexico Teen Explosion: The Family
Unidentified male singer: Who will take the stand and heed the call...
Narrator: At first, Berg preached a simple gospel, prophesying the second coming of Jesus but as his popularity grew, his sermons became more disturbing
Unidentified male singer: ... called to live and die for the kingdom as we give our all to the...
Narrator: 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
Unidentified male singer: ... revolution for Jesus and David our king...
Judy : I kind of got sucked in and I got sucked in before I knew... I really thought I was joining a Christian organization. I thought it was what God wanted me to do. I had no idea that eventually it would turn into dark betrayal.
Text on screen: Witnessing Video: The Family
Narrator: 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, 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.
Text on screen: Daniel Roselle left The Family 1995
Daniel: I remember her name to this day. I remember getting up and going into the bathroom and looking into my mom's room and my mom was having sex with the woman's husband. This wasn't an anomaly. 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.
Text on screen: Japan Expo Video: The Family
Unidentified female: He doesn't get to appreciate your beauty that often... We should show him how we bed down here at night
Unidentified female #2: We love you!
Unidentified female #3: We love you!
Narrator: Armed with camcorders, far flung communes often recorded their exploits, sending David Berg messages of love,
Unidentified female #4: Good night, we love you!
Rick: I've tried so many things, trying to somehow fit in, somehow to find a normal life. Everyone has said, who I've talked to about this, "well, everybody has their problems, everybody has their fucked up life." But those people who say that they had no clue as to what actually went on because they weren't part of the cult.
Narrator: Rick was the result of grand sexual experiment. His mother, Karen Zerby, was David Berg's favorite consort and together they devised a revolutionary method of luring new recruits. It was called "Flirty Fishing."
Text on screen: The Little Flirty Fishy! Phillippe La Plume: Children of God
Daniel: 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...
Text on screen: Japan Expo Video: The Family
Daniel: And then there was the expectation that they would lead these people to Jesus or pray with them to receive Jesus as their savior.
Unidentified female #5: Here we see Faithy as she witnesses to the vice president of an oil company from Sweden 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 thenn it was kind of a pressurized thing, it was like either do it or you're out.
Interviewer: What was it like to have to do that?
Judy: What was it like?
Judy: I don't want to go there.
Daniel: 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 whose used the words - "God's whores" - it was her founder... she said she's proud about it and proud to have done it.
Interviewer: How does that make you feel now?
Daniel: It bothers me, to be honest with you... If you boil it down to its basic... my mother was a prostitute
Narrator: Karen Zerby was a hooker for Jesus, one of the first. On one trip to Tenerife, she records "fishing" 18 different men. One of them was a local waiter, Rick's father. David Berg wanted an heir apparent he could mold in his own image so he adopted baby Rick, celebrating the new messiah in the cult's publications and dotting his childhood in intimate family snaps.
Sarah: He was almost like a... I don't know, what would you compare that to... I suppose... He was just very famous. Probably one of the most famous... sort of like next to his dad, it's like their family was like royalty and he was like a prince, a soon to be king sort of person.
Narrator: But the mantle of leadership came with a price. Berg would also use his son as an ideological plaything., pushing sexual boundaries for a new generation of disciples...
Rick: You may not believe in God. I don't, certainly not the Christian fucked up God with his big fucking dick he wants to stick up everyone's... But, but I don't know. I'm starting to think that life goes on and that fucking scares me, that really does scare me more than anything because I don't know, I don't want it to go on, I just want it to be over.
Sarah: He talked about suicide a lot. And I would ask him, why he felt like that, why did he want to die and he said "because I'm already dead."
Rick: Ok, we're back. So anyway, duct tape. You can fix anything with this fucking stuff. Yeah, I'm going to fix some people with this. Anyway, ok, I'm sorry I'm getting all off track here. Where the fuck was I? Suicide, yes, suicide.
Narrator: Twenty-four hours after Rick recorded his 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.
Text on screen: Elixcia Garcia - Rick's wife - left the Family 2000
Elixcia: 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 going to pull in here and kill myself" and I'm just freaking out... it's like what are you going to 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, I'm so tired of thinking." He was just expressing thoughts, everything that was going through his mind. And then he was like, "I have to go now."
Rick: I got in contact with my sister well I consider her 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. She tells me the stuff she's going through and it just breaks my heart because I want to help her but there's nothing I can do because... it's all up here, the damage has been done.
Narrator: 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.
Text on screen: New York
Narrator: As The Family's patriarch continued to break sexual and religious taboos, Rick and Davida became his latest playthings.
Davida: When I was a kid, I remember everything revolved in our lives around religion and sex.
Text on screen: Davida Kelley - left the Family 1996
Davida: 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 - the next gurus, the next David Berg and the next Karen Zerby of our time.
Narrator: Not only were Rick and Davida encouraged to have sexual interaction, they also shared David Berg's bed.
Davida: I must have been five years old. I was married, supposedly, to... I was going to become one of David Berg's brides and there was a ceremony with a ring and everything and once I turned five years old was... when I was implicated into being one of his queens, so to speak... I remember actually I used to look forward to going in 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 would always let us watch "Scooby Doo." Well, we didn't look forward to love-up time but that was port of the package, you get to watch Scooby Doo and eat chocolate and have... 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, oral and mostly just that... Except it was different with Rick, he always had intercourse with the adult women... because... as a little boy it's... I suppose it's a little different.
Daniel: 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 relationships 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 sticking up for your mate or your partner - the woman defending the man and being in denial - well, no, because they were active enablers and active participants in our abuse.
Text on screen: Story of Davidito
Narrator: 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: The book was just written by my mother because she 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 how we interacted and what she was teaching us and what we were learning and that included sexual encounters she had had with him and how she used to masturbate him to sleep and how she would make sure that he would have his love up time before bedtime. It was just so... it was really... I don't know, you have to read the book. It's really... So that's what the Davidito book 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.
Narrator: 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 he never met ordinary members. Now, he commanded his female acolytes to send him strip videos.
Text on screen : Nottingham
Narrator: When his missive extended to young girls, English sisters Celeste and Kristina also had to perform for his cameras.
Text on screen: Celeste Jones - left the Family 2000
Celeste: That's to me disturbing because it... this is just the start... was the start... of much more
Text on screen: Kristina Jones - left the Family 1988
Kristina: We were told we were dancing for God as well as berg, didn't we?
Celeste: Yeah, glorify God in the dance. It's just sad. It's just...
Text on screen: Music with Meaning: The Family
Text on screen: Celeste aged 10
Celeste: David Berg wrote a letter called "Glorify God in the Dance." That's where he gave specific instructions about what he wanted to see on those dance videos. So it came right from David Berg. It was his idea and it was for him.
Rick: He's a little life, you know. She's a little life. And you just fuck them over because you're a sick fucking pervert and you don't have anything better to do with your life that to fuck up your little kids. It's just so far beyond me I just can't fucking imagine it. But yet it happened, it happened right before me. It happened to all of you.
Narrator: Celeste's strip video was filmed at The Family's commune in Greece. Led by Berg's lieutenant Paul Peloquin, this was the unit that most enthusiastically followed the example set by Berg with Rick in the "Story of Davidito."
Celeste: I hold Paul Peloquin responsible because he was... he ran the communes, his word was gold 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. I don't remember every instance because it happened so often...
Paul Peloquin (on video): 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 I said of course that sounds beautiful.
Celeste: He was the one that would use David Berg's writings to support his position and also to help set up the schedules that I would be put on for... sexually servicing all the men in the Home.
Text on screen: Don Irwin - left The Family 1997
Don: They never report to anyone else except for Berg. What happened in that location is that they they began to institute and institutionalize the pedophilia 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 that essentially it became a pedophile ring. They viciously abused my sister and her friend 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 (on video): It was really a beautiful experience. It really...
Narrator: Despite the allegations against Paul Peloquin, he has never been convicted of any child sexual abuse.
Rick: What about these fucking perverts? Aren't they the real terrorists? Terrorising little kids, driving them to suicide... isn't that like murdering them basically? You fuck with their minds so much that they can't go on. Isn't that like killing them?
Rick: I don't know though, one of these fuckers to the head... I don't think there's going to be much time to feel anything.
Text on screen: Blythe, California
Text on screen: Det. Sgt. Jeff Wade - Blythe Police Dept.
Jeff Wade: A few minutes after 8 AM on Sunday morning, our patrol officers got a call that there was a body, here at the Palo Verde Irrigation District. located inside a vehicle parked where you can see my car is now.
Text on screen: Blythe Police Case No. 2005-0107, DATE: 010905, LOC: 180 W. 14th AVE. CRIME: SUICIDE
Jeff: Some of the things that we discovered in the car was key card for the Holiday Inn Express which is actually about three quarters of a mile straight across here to the southwest.
Text on screen : Blythe Police Case No. 2005-0107, DATE: 010905, LOC: 600 W. Donlen CRIME: SUC [sticker on hotel room door 109]
Jeff: It looks like he probably took a shower, cleaned up, he drank some beers. It looked like he had laid in the bed but that he hadn't slept in the bed and possibly just watched TV and rested after cleaning up and then drove this short distance over to here. I think it was just a place where he thought he wouldn't be bothered, he could do what he felt he needed to do... It's a very sad story and if half of what they say occurred happened, it needs to be hopefully looked into and get this abuse stopped.
Rick: God damn, I can only imagine what my sister goes through. She has nightmares about being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to go and have sex with Berg. God damn.
Davida: It was very strange because during a lot of these sexual interactions David Berg would be getting prophecies where he would speak on account of ghosts taht he believed were possessing him... that were good ghosts... were saved or Christian but had gone on to heaven and that were living with Jesus and he would burst out speaking in tongues just exactly like they do in a Baptist church where they have tounges and prophecy and he would lift his hands in the air and get a prophecy say that was the best... saying that that was the most amazing sex that you just had with the ghost gypsy.. they gypsy's ghost would say thanks that was... he would get a whole prophecy... it was really disturbing
Narrator: Now aged 12 and sequestered in The Family's secret HQ, Rick's degradation reached new extremes. In his father's eyes, incest was virtuous and he encouraged Rick's mother, Karen Zerby, to join in their sexual games.
Davida: 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... the same... on the other side of the bed. But it would be like a big happy family time... between the four of us...
Daniel: There are a lot of things I've sort of come to terms with. I understand 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.
Narrator: The Family deny that Karen Zerby ever had sex with Rick and say that he himself never made this allegation. Nevertheless, whatever 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.
Rick: Jesus Christ, you know, anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people and what they've done. I mean rage.
Don: 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. This first dove is for Ricky. Abe, Amos, Andrew Parker, Ben Farnsworth, Cherish Lloyd, Daniel Parker, Johnny of Steven and Gina, Jonas, Richard P. Rodriguez, River Phoenix, Eman...
Narrator: Rick Rodriguez is not the only child born into The Family driven to suicide or to fatally overdose on drugs. Over the past 10 years, around 30 have died including the actor River Phoenix whose family were once members.
Davida: 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 want him to see... 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...
Elixcia: Rick was amazing in every way... for the time in my life that I got to share with him... I have so many memories, from the first time we kissed to the first time we got our apartment.
Elixcia: These are all his driver's licenses. I kept them all. Him as a baby... That's what he looked like when I first met him... He went through a long hair stage... he was quite skinny at the time. I always liked taking pictures of him... he'd always get mad at me. But I'm lucky now because I have all these pictures of him.
Narrator: Rick was 19 when he met Elixcia at the Family commune in Hungary.
Elixcia: He came down the stairs with beautiful smile, he said "what are you doing?" and then we just started chatting, he was like "do you know how to play cards?" and I'm like "No" and he's like "Do you want me to teach you?" So we went up to my room, hr brought some music and we just started playing cards. We played cards until like 2 or 3 in the morning. We just talked and talked. I went to breakfast the next morning, went back to my room to get my stuff, get ready for the day and he had put a rose on my bed... and never the same after that.
Unidentified female #6 (singing): After you're gone, oh Dad you're gonna break my heart, the love you showed to me...
Narrator: With the spread of AIDS and international authorities hot on his heels, David Berg was finally forced to act. In 1986, he banned sex with children. Eight years later, a new band of altogether more wholesome disciples were saying goodbye. In 1994, he was dead.
Unidentified children (singing): Oh Dad, we're going to carry it on...
Voice of David Berg: God bless you. It's hard for me to quit. Well, I'm saying goodbye! Just start fading me out because I can't quit...
Text on screen: Porto, Portugal
Narrator: Rick's mother, Karen Zerby, took over as leader. At the time Zerby, Rick and Elixcia were living in Portugal. In 1997, Celeste Jones joined them in the luxury compound.
Celeste: I'm pretty sure this is the one because Rick and Elixcia stayed in that room there, where you see, going out into the patio and... but that was their room. I'm pretty sure that's the one... Let's see.
Unidentified woman #1: Can you see?
Celeste: Yeah... Wow, it's really changed. It looks like it could have been... but it's really changed
Narrator: Zerby and her entourage left the house in 2001. While in Portugal, increasingly reclusive and going blind, she kept a tight rein on her son.
Celeste: She didn't give him much responsibility. He didn't have much responsibility in that house... and that was surprising for me because as a child we were taught that he was going to be the leader, the next leader. I think she saw him still as her little boy and not as the man he had become. Respecting his opinions and his wishes, I didn't see that. It was more like still telling him what to think, what to feel, what to do and that he didn't really have anything to say back.
Narrator: Although pedophilia was banned, under Karen Zerby's command, wife swapping remained the norm.
Celeste: There was a prophecy given that this house was called the "house of the open pussy" and so they adopted this phrase as this house was the house of the open pussy not meaning the house and the structure itself but the people in it and that's how we were supposed to be. The essence was that sex was the medium to God, to Jesus.
Elixcia: Whereever we went, Rick was always a topic of interest for people and there was always girls that wanted to get a piece of him and for me it was really hard to share him. And her I was, what can I do, I should share him, it would be the right thing to do, it was the way we were brought up to think and then likewise there were people who wanted to date me and that was extremely hard for me because the only person in my mind was Rick, that's the only person I want to be with. I remember each time leaving the room and feel just really gross. I can't explain the feeling, sometimes nothing would happen but just being in the room with that person... I hated it, I really didn't like it... and every time Rick was gone, oh my god, I'd be crying, I was beside myself. We struggled a lot with that, a lot.
Rick: They sure fucked up our brains. Used us as slaves because that's what we were, every last fucking one of us... no matter how we were treated, we were fucking slaves, just there for those sick fuckers' pleasure. That's all it was. That's how it was in Grandpa and Mama's house.
Narrator: Rick showed little appetite for the mantle of leadership forced upon him by David Berg. As he grew older he became increasingly angry with his mother, rejecting everything she stood for. In 2000, with little education and no money, Rick and Elixcia left Portugal and The Family for America. They went northwest, to Tacoma where they knew several ex-cult members. The couple's new life began in a cheap apartment on the edge of town.
Elixcia: Just waking up every morning was just amazing because it was just the two of us. We chose what time we woke up. We chose what time time we went to bed. We chose whether we could turn the TV on. We chose what we had for dinner. We chose if we didn't want to eat. But it was our life. There may not have been much to it but it was ours. Every single time we ever discussed the topic of his past, of Karen...
Narrator: Ex-cult members began contacting Rick, pressurising him to take a stand against their abusers. Raised to be leader, it was a role he found difficult to refuse.
Elixcia: 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," and here he is, he's got a good job, he's got a happy life and it's hard for him to think it was fair for him to have been given that second chance when there were kids out there that were hurting.
Narrator: Drove south to Arizona.
Rick: My mom's going to pay for that. She's going to pay dearly, one way or another. If I don't get to her and life goes on, I'm going to keep hunting her in the next life, let me tell you.
Rick: Here in our great state of Arizona, Jesus-land, as some people call it, if you catch an adult sexually abusing a minor, if you catch them in the act, you can walk up to them and execute them and it would be a justifiable homicide, a legal shooting.
Text on screen: Tucson, Arizona
Narrator: As leader of a cult with many enemies, Karen Zerby's whereabouts were a closely guarded secret. When Rick left The Family, he broke off all contact with her. So when he decided to challenge his mother over the abuse he had suffered, he had to find her first.
Sarah: I knew he had a plan to find his mother. I knew that was all that he really wanted to do. He really wanted to confront her face to face and ask her and get some answers.
Elixcia: He was searching for his meaning in life. He really was. And I think he finally came up with the conclusion that his reason for living was to make right his mother's wrongs.
Narrator: In the summer of 2004, news reached Rick that his mother had recently visited his grandparents in a Tucson retirement home linked to The Family. In September he moved to the city and waited for her to make an appearance. He made contact with his aunt, Zerby's sister, who lives in Tucson and shuns the cult.
Interviewer: This must have been very difficult for you because so much of his anger was directed at his mother, your sister. I mean, you were caught in the middle of this in a sense.
Rosemary Kanspedos: No, I wasn't caught in the middle. 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.
Tom Kanspedos: Growing up in... where he was and not doing drugs, getting out, I thought, You're amazing that you've gotten out and this is the first step and you're struggling right now, it's very difficult but take another step, keep taking one step at a time...
Rosemary: He sat one time and just said "I don't know. I don't know if I can go on." And this was probably a week or so before. And I had known that it was coming. It wasn't a question of... a matter of "maybe it'll come" it was a matter of when it was going to happen.
Narrator: Rick rented a room in a rough part of town and found a job as an electrician. He practised 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.
Rick: There's this need that I have. This need. It's not a want, it's a fucking 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.
Text on screen: Det. Ben Jimenz - Tucson Homicide Unit
Ben Jimenz: The Blythe, California police department contacted us on the morning of January 9th. They found a suicide victim by the name of Ricky Rodriguez and upon contacting his wife in Washington, they found out that Ricky lived here at this apartment complex and he had mentioned some things to her that were somewhat alarming, that possibly there might be a murder victim here in his apartment. We walked in and 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 arm, some cuts on her arms as well.
Narrator: The woman Rick killed wasn't his mother. It was her close confidante, Angela Smith. Smith had helped raise Rick and features in the Story of Davidito under the pseudonym Sue. He arranged to meet her early in the evening of January 8th, planning to force her to reveal his mother's whereabouts.
Rick: I'm not trained in torture methods which is why I'm going to have to make do. I've got my drill here. The reason why it's got this fucking padding on it is just to try to silence it a bit because I'm in an apartment. I've got a soldering iron, heat. This rather crude implement I think can work wonders especially if it's used in the right way. But I'm not trained. I don't know how to fucking do this. I don't even want to do this. God damn it.
Narrator: As Rick drove to his death, he called his wife, 1500 miles away in Tacoma, one last time.
Elixcia: The hardest thing about it was that as she was dying, he said she didn't understand what she had done and I'm like "oh, she didn't get it. These people don't get it." He said, "I wasn't expecting that answer. I don't understand how they cannot see what they have done."
Narrator: Despite the savagery of the murder, there was no evident torture and it's not clear whether Angela told Rick where his mother was nor is it clear if he set off across the desert to hunt down his mother, or see his wife or simply to find a quiet place to die.
Interviewer: It's pretty extraordinary to want to kill your own mother, isn't it?
Davida: Well, when your mother fucks you as a child, instead of being your mother, loving and endearing and teaching you in the right ways... instead when you fuck your little boy, that'll do that to you. That might make you want to kill your mother when you grow up. It really does fuck your head up.
Rick: But yeah, I've guess I've fucking said all I can say. What can I say? I would have had a happy peaceful life. I tried. I did. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. I gave it what I could, you know. I did.
Unidentified woman #2: He wanted to understand. He wanted to care. He wanted to do something about the pain that I had suffered and others had suffered like himself.
Sarah: I think many times about why, why did he have to do it that way, why would he cross that line to actually kill someone. The only thing I can think of is because I think he realized is that's what it would take, something like that in order to get people's attention.
Text on screen: The Family declined to be interviewed for this film. The Family concede there may have been isolated instances of sexual abuse in the early 1980s but deny that paedophilia was ever institutionalized. The Family say in 1986 Rick's mother, Karen Zerby, was responsible for introducing strict child protection rules.
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Lighting/Camera: Stephen Robinson
Production Co-ordinator: Nicola King
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Graphics: Ben Mason
Post-production: Dan Coles, Justin Eely
Assistant Editor: Amanda Hastie
Dubbing Mixer: Cliff Jones
Head of Production: Steven Green
Executive Producer: Martin Durkin
Assistant Producer: Sorrel May
Editor: Paul Van Dyck
Directed and Produced by Nick Godwin
WagTV for Channel 4