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Family of religious sect member seeking closure turned away at compound

Brittany Costello
September 04, 2017 05:47 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Last month KOB reported on an investigation into child sex abuse allegations at a paramilitary religious sect in Cibola County. Deputies raided the compound – which belongs to the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps – on August 20.

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So far, nine people have been arrested while authorities have picked up 11 children, some without birth certificates.

The death of a 12-year-old child at that compound prompted the raid. But on August 26 the Cibola County Sheriff's Office said it found two bodies buried on the land about a year ago.

Both deaths were reported and investigated until it was determined those people died of natural causes.

Still, one family still has questions as to what exactly happened leading up to their deaths.

The family of one of those two individuals – Martha Chavarria – was informed a week after those arrests of her death, the news coming in the form of an email from a former sect member.

Chavarria’s entire family dropped everything when they heard she passed. The family traveled from California to New Mexico to say a proper goodbye.

The news came 11 years after her death. But when they arrived at the compound this weekend to pray by her grave, they were told to turn around and go home.

Family members told KOB that back in the 1980s Martha Chavarria had a full life ahead of her at just 28 years old. At that time, they said, she decided to dedicate her time serving the Lord.

She left her family to join the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps. What they didn't know is that that would be one of the last times they would see her.

“I think deep down we thought we would at some point,” said Teresa Chavarria, Martha’s sister. “We never thought the circumstance would be like this.”

Chavarria married a man in the sect and they had a child – a little girl that Martha's parents met one time.

They received the news last week that Chavarria passed away in 2006 at age 46, from some sort of illness. Local deputies said natural causes were to blame.

Chavarria’s daughter, meanwhile, is still at the compound.

“I mean, we're in a lot of pain,” said Lucy Chavarria, Martha’s sister. “It hurts when you hear something devastating like this. Some of us want closure. Some of us want to be able to see what exactly happened.”

So her entire family drove 16 hours to Fence Lake in an attempt to find answers, but when they were arrived they were told they couldn’t see her grave.

“Under the circumstances of us being basically attacked and terrorized with SWAT teams and stuff, you're not getting in,” a man told the family outside the compound gate. The interaction was recorded on cell phone by family members.

“This was a long journey and for this to happen, I mean, all we were expecting was five minutes for us to maybe say a prayer, to pay our respects and that was it,” Teresa Chavarria said.

But they didn’t get the chance.

“I feel bad (being) the bearer of bad news,” the man at the compound told them. “I know you came all this way, brought the cameras for media hype and all that stuff, but where’s the compassion for all the innocent people and children in custody for nothing?”

    

Credits

Brittany Costello

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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