A founding leader of a New Mexico-based religious cult that called itself “God’s Army” and whose members wore military fatigues was sentenced to 72 years in prison on Wednesday for multiple crimes against children, PEOPLE confirms.
Deborah Green, 71, was one of the founding members of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps and went by “General” to the group’s followers. She was convicted Tuesday on three counts of child rape, two counts of kidnapping and one count of child abuse, a law enforcement official tells PEOPLE.
The gaunt Green, who has been waging hunger strikes behind bars, sat and listened as a woman — kidnapped from Uganda by Green in the 1990s as a child and subjected to physical and sexual torture for more than a decade — spoke about the lifelong toll the abuse took on her.
“Emotionally, she broke me as a child to the point where I still today struggle with my own self-confidence, my self-esteem, my sense of worth,” the victim told the judge, according to the official.
The victim said she has endured 11 surgical procedures to mend bones she claimed Green helped break.
“I’m reminded of how much I have to fight myself every day to not be sunken down into that low place again,” the victim said.
For decades, Green and her husband, James Green, reigned over the New Mexico-based religious sect they co-founded. Former member Julie Gudino previously told PEOPLE they controlled the lives of their dozens of followers and imposed harsh punishments on members who disappointed them.
Before Deborah Green’s trial, both Greens had been behind bars for more than a year, awaiting trial. James Green’s trial is set to begin in November. He faces charges of kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence.
The cult was the subject of an episode of People Magazine Investigates: Cults, which aired in July.
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Nine alleged members of the cult were arrested during an early-morning raid on their compound outside Gallup in mid-August 2017. The Greens’ 55-year-old son-in-law, Peter Green, faces 100 counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child.
All nine defendants are being tried separately. They have all pleaded not guilty and their lawyers have not responded to requests for comment from PEOPLE.
Gudino — who alleges Deborah Green coerced her into trying to kidnap a Mexican child years ago — was among a handful of former members who had been called on to testify at Green’s trial.
‘A Weaker Person Would Not Have Survived,’ Judge Tells Survivor
District Court Judge James Sanchez could have sentenced Green to 108 years, but instead gave her 72 years.
Sanchez spoke directly to the woman Green had kidnapped during the 1990s from Uganda, offering words of support.
“A weaker person would not have survived,” Sanchez told the victim, the source says. “That means you can continue on being strong.”
The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps began as a peace-promoting commune in the 1980s, but quickly escalated into a militaristic Christian fringe group, according to allegations from former members and law enforcement.
Almost overnight, the Greens’ followers went from wearing their own clothing to donning military fatigues and berets. Members were cut off from their families and barred from watching television or reading newspapers. Children did not receive proper medical care and were deprived of a formal education, authorities say.
For years, investigators could only speculate as to what was happening on the compound.
That changed in 2017 when a man named Bill Miller, excommunicated from the group years earlier, came forward with concerns about his 12-year-old son, Enoch, who he had been unable to contact and wanted to report as missing.
Police raided the reclusive ministry’s concrete-walled compound in Fence Lake looking for Enoch, but instead found his grave — as well as evidence of multiple serious crimes.