Self-proclaimed messiah starves again

KRQE News, New Mexico/September 5, 2009

Albuquerque - Convicted church leader Wayne Bent has said he no longer wants to eat, and the self-proclaimed messiah could die in prison if he carries out his plan.

Bent first made the promise almost a year ago when he was sentenced.

"I won't be spending time in prison, but for a few days," Bent said.

Now Bent is again promising to starve himself to death, and this time he said he means it.

In an online statement posted on his church's Web site, Bent outlined his plan to starve himself.

Saturday his son, Jeff Bent, explained why this time it's different.

"He sees that now he will be following through on what he said he would do for a year-that he won't live in prison over a lie," Bent said.

Bent was convicted of molesting one of his teenage followers last year, stemming from a 2006 incident when he touched her while she was naked.

He claimed they were acts of healing, but the jury didn't see it that way. The 68-year-old is now locked up in the Los Lunas prison. The state appeals court recently ruled against him.

"The reason he has begun this most recent fast is because of the recent decision of the court of appeals to not to grant him an appeal bond," Jeff Bent said.

Prison officials said they can’t make him eat.

"He gets all three meals given to him each day and it's up to him whether he decides to eat it or not, it's all on him," Central NM Corrections Facility Deputy Warden Ken Sandlin said.

The prison's deputy warden said he was moved to his own cell.

"We've isolated him in segregation so we can monitor him by medical," Sandlin said.

Bent says the only way he'll eat again is if it's food from his family.

"That's not going to happen," Sandlin said of Bent’s request. "You can't control what is being brought in, that's the biggest danger and threat security."

Prison officials said they take each threat of an inmate fasting seriously, and that's why Bent is now isolated. If his health deteriorates to a point of near-death, they say they will let the court decide what steps to take to next.

Bent was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The judge suspended eight of those years.

"By remaining alive in prison, he keeps the story going, he keeps giving the state power to demonstrate that they have power over 'cult' leaders," Jeff Bent said.

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