For decades, New Mexico authorities were suspicious of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps but had no legal reason to investigate the militant religious sect.
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, whom he had been unable to contact and wanted to report as missing.
And so, last summer, 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. The case will be explored in Monday’s episode of People Magazine Investigates: Cults, airing on Investigation Discovery and exclusively previewed above.
Authorities tell PEOPLE their work revealed various forms of child abuse that had become rampant within the group: Kids were denied schooling and medical treatment and most of them were forced to work on the property.
At least one child was sexually abused for years, according to law enforcement.
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By the time Enoch’s remains were discovered, he’d been dead and buried for so long it was impossible to conclusively determine from an autopsy how he had died. However, authorities say other efforts led them to believe it was from the flu.
“We learned he [Enoch] died a horrible death … that was our way to get in and figure out what was going on,” Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace tells PEOPLE.
Nine members of the cult that called itself “God’s Army” were arrested during that early-morning raid on the compound last August. (Lawyers for each declined to comment to PEOPLE.)
This September all of the defendants — including husband-and-wife co-founders (and self-described “generals”) Deborah and James Green — will stand trial on a variety of counts, including charges of child neglect, kidnapping, failure to register a birth and child sexual abuse. In addition, the Greens’ 55-year-old son-in-law, Peter Green, faces 100 counts of criminal sexual penetration of a child.
Enoch’s mother, Stacey Miller, was also among those taken into custody. She stands accused of failing to get him much-needed medical care in 2014, after he fell ill.
Instead, authorities say, Stacey was encouraged to pray for the boy’s recovery, leaving his fate to God’s will.
“These arrests had to happen because kids were being abused and getting smuggled in from other countries,” Mace explains. “We had to bring this organization to light in order to protect children, to protect people.”
• Watch Monday’s People Magazine Investigates: Cults at 9 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery for more on the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps.
A Cult ‘Exposed’
The Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps was founded in the early 1980s as a commune called the Free Love Ministries.
As the group’s numbers swelled, Deborah started wielding control over her followers. With wild eyes and a stentorian voice, she claimed she spoke to God directly and that — one day — members would be called to wage a holy war against demon forces.
Still, the self-described “army,” whose members wore green berets and khaki military fatigues, largely flew under the radar until 1988. That’s when defector Maura Schmierer successfully sued the Greens for forcing her to live for months in a storage shed with no bed or bathroom — punishment, Schmierer says, for putting the needs of her children before her commitment to the cause.
“Under Deborah’s oppression, we were slowly cut off from the world,” says Schmierer, who has received only a fraction of the $1 million judgment she was awarded in court. “When I left, it became my purpose to expose them, because they needed to be held accountable.”
The People Magazine Investigates: Cults episode on Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps airs Monday (9 p.m. ET) on Investigation Discovery.