Religious group blames 'deprogrammer' for arrests in alleged kidnapping

Vista religious group says member was victimized by 'cult experts' who 'prey on the fears of families'

After the supposed victim declined to press charges, San Diego authorities decided not to prosecute three people arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a relative from a religious commune, according to commune leaders.

The Twelve Tribes Community/Church in Vista, in a statement Tuesday, blamed the June 6 incident not on the three people who were arrested but on "so-called cult experts" who had promised to "deprogram" 24-year-old Robert Martinez, a member of the group for five years.

Without explanation, the San Diego County district attorney's office announced Monday it had decided not to file charges in the case. When arrested, the three had said they wanted to prevent Martinez from being brainwashed.

The "cult experts" are "known to prey on the fears of families of those who get involved in new religious movements," according to the Twelve Tribes statement.

An unidentified man "assisted with the abduction" but fled before sheriff's deputies arrived, according to the statement.

"There were also two other vehicles in our driveway that also seemed to be connected with the incident," the group said. "This was not just a family affair."

Martinez has rejoined the Twelve Tribes group, along with his wife, who is expecting their first child, the group said.

Twelve Tribes is a religious community whose members live in a house in Vista, which also serves as a church. Others live on a 66-acre avocado ranch in Valley Center. The group also runs the Yellow Deli in Vista and its members are often seen at farmers markets selling produce.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to Robert's family," said the Twelve Tribes statement. "We know this must be a painfully difficult time for them."

 

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